Family Money: Property, Race, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century

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16 Scopus citations


This book analyzes the legal and economic conflicts that occurred when nineteenth-century ideals of family collided with the realities of interracial intimacy. Counterposing nuanced literary interpretations with significant law cases, the book reveals a shared preoccupation with the financial quandaries emerging from cross-racial sexual encounters. The book moves us well beyond scholarship's usual emphasis on racial identity's ambiguities, demonstrating instead how interracial intimacy forced confrontations over who counted as family and who had legal access to family money. At stake were the very notion of kinship and the distribution of wealth in the United States. This book explores the histories of formerly enslaved women who tried to claim inheritances left to them by deceased owners, the household traumas of mixed-race slaves, post-Emancipation calls for reparations, and the economic fallout from antimiscegenation marriage laws. Authors including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frank Webb, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Chesnutt, and Lydia Maria Child recognized that intimate interracial relationships took myriad forms, often simultaneously-sexual, marital, coercive, familial, pleasurable, and painful. Their fiction confirms that the consequences of these relationships for nineteenth-century Americans meant thinking about more than the legal structure of racial identity. Who could count as family (and when), who could own property (and when), and how racial difference was imagined (and why) were emphatically bound together.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages224
ISBN (Electronic)9780199980123
StatePublished - Jan 24 2013

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013 by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


  • American literature
  • Economics
  • Family
  • Inheritance
  • Interracial
  • Law
  • Property
  • Race
  • Sexuality
  • Slavery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (all)


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