Improvising Structures of Power and Race: The Sally Miller Story and New Orleans
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In 1844, Sally Miller, a slave in New Orleans, filed a freedom suit against her previous owners. She claimed to be a German immigrant, illegally enslaved for over twenty years. Historians have argued that Miller’s case is representative of Southern racial ideology and legal tradition of the antebellum era. This thesis will build upon those conclusions and seek to fit the case into the specific historical narrative of its setting. Through a detailed analysis of New Orleans’ past, this thesis will place the Sally Miller case within that particular history. Because New Orleans had such a unique past, it is important to examine the case within that specific context. Its multicultural heritage created nontraditional structures of power and race. Within those structures, there was room for improvisation. Studying Sally’s case with a focus on her home city and its character adds a new level of interpretation to the existing historiography.