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Deferred Dreams, Defiant StrugglesCritical Perspectives on Blackness, Belonging, and Civil Rights$
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Violet Showers Johnson, Gundolf Graml, and Patricia Williams Lessane

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786940339

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786940339.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 01 June 2020

Staging the Scaffold: Criminal Conversion Narratives of the Late Eighteenth Century

Staging the Scaffold: Criminal Conversion Narratives of the Late Eighteenth Century

(p.77) 5 Staging the Scaffold: Criminal Conversion Narratives of the Late Eighteenth Century
Deferred Dreams, Defiant Struggles

Carsten Junker

Liverpool University Press

Chapter considers how criminal conversion narratives staged the personae of enslaved black men in ways that legitimised white-coded religious and legal discourses. It also discusses the ways in which abolitionists used the same narratives to bolster their cause, namely by diverting attention away from the alleged crimes of the enslaved toward the cruelties that drove the perpetrators to commit their crimes in the first place. Indeed, the chapter argues that criminal conversion narratives oscillated between contradictory functions: potentially humanizing the enslaved by framing them as redeemable subjects, on the one hand, and presenting them as pieces of property that can be subjected to violent punishment, thereby condemning them to the sphere of the not-quite-human and preserving civic society as the realm of white power, on the other.

Keywords:   Criminal conversion narratives, Religious conversion, White supremacy, Slavery, Dehumanisation, Confession, Personhood, Property, Abolition, Punishment

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