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1806: Hudgins v. Wright and the Place of Slavery

1806: Hudgins v. Wright and the Place of Slavery

X. 1806: Hudgins v. Wright and the Place of Slavery
A Community Built on Words
University of Chicago Press

Hudgins v. Wright became a constitutional landmark in the Virginia court of appeals. Hudgins claimed to be the lawful master of the Wrights (a woman, her daughter, and her granddaughter) and as a factual matter had kept them as slaves. The suit began when the Wrights discovered that Hudgins intended to send them out of Virginia. It is possible that Hudgins, like many Virginia slaveowners in this period, believed that the days of slavery in the commonwealth were numbered and wanted to convert his chattels into cash while he could, or he may simply have been trying to capitalize on the high prices entrepreneurs in the rapidly expanding frontier slave country of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi were willing to pay. The lot of slaves in the deep south and what was then the southwest was notoriously harsher even than in Virginia, and this as well as a simple reluctance to leave their home and friends may have had something to do with the Wrights' decision to challenge their enslavement after (apparently) living as slaves all their lives. Whatever their reasons for acting, the Wrights resolved to seek their freedom through legal means.

Keywords:   Hudgins v. Wright, Virginia court of appeals, slaves, Virginia, enslavement, legal means

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