Amanda Gibson, Post Doctoral Fellow in History for the Center for the Study of American Democracy, has been awarded an Exploratory Research Grant from the Hagley Museum and Library, which collects, preserves, and interprets the unfolding history of American enterprise. Its collections document the interaction between business and the cultural, social, and political dimensions of American society from the late 18th century to the present. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, Hagley is recognized around the world as one of the preeminent institutions for the study of business history.
My project, “Credit is Due: African Americans as Borrowers and Lenders in Antebellum Virginia,” analyzes the credit arrangements of Black Virginians, enslaved and free, from the American Revolution to the Civil War. As democracy assured new rights for white men, Black Virginians, and especially Black women, saw the erosion of their legal access to civil and political rights. At the same time a new system of banks provided the capital for the expansion of enslavement. My manuscript examines different forms of debt at the moment when changing ideas about race and freedom and relationships of debt began to evolve into the “modern” banking system. I argue that when whites applied nineteenth-century notions of liberalism to free and enslaved Black Virginians the result was not more freedom for African Americans but instead new forms of unfreedom.