@Book{ salafia2013,
    author = {Matthew Salafia},
    title = {Slavery's Borderland: Freedom and Bondage along the Ohio River},
    address = {Philadelphia},
    publisher = {University of Pennsylvania Press},
    year = 2013,

Salafia’s book shows how the Ohio River became a legal and political border between slavery and freedom, but also shows that because the border was a river, it constantly brought communities on both sides of the border into contact with each other and undermined the rigidity of the supposed dividing line (see p. 3). “With each succession of settlement the river was both an artery of movement that forged connections throughout the region and a boundary that divided settlement” (p. 16), something that distinguished it from the Mason-Dixon line (p. 107).

He stresses that white communities on both sides of the river (and even some fugitive slaves and free blacks who commented on the limitations of freedom in Ohio—see pp. 11, 69, 120-121, 165-184) viewed the racial border between black and white as much more impassable and “easier to enforce” than the line between slavery and freedom (see p. 6), especially after the rise of the steamboat economy (p. 108-112).

Contra harrold2010, he argues that moments of border conflict over slavery occurred within a much longer pattern of accommodation and coexistence across the border by white communities who shared economic ties and viewed their region as an exemplar of managing slavery conflicts and repudiating radicalism in the interest of Union. (See especially chapters 5 and 8.) “While Harrold argued that constant conflict made accommodation impossible, I argue that constant conflict made accommodation necessary” (p. 9). He thus views the region as having a limited role in Civil War causation, and is more impressed by the fact that …

when the Civil War broke the country in two in 1861, this region failed to split at the seam … Rather than marking a line that slavery could not penetrate, the Ohio River muddied distinctions, and residents used that ambiguity to try to hold the region together even against the threat of Civil War (p. 1).

p. 4:

As white Americans moved into the region, slaveholding Kentucky became a place where emancipation seemed possible, and the Northwest Territory, the first region with free-soil origins, had a disguised form of slavery. The role of the Ohio River border in the settlement process sheds light on this apparent contradiction as well. Some settlers heading west hoped to make Kentucky a model of America’s antislavery future. But Virginia’s land claims extended north to the Ohio River, and so Kentucky was under the jurisdiction of Virginia. Settlers capitalized on enslaved labor to break the land and set up their homesteads. The enslaved population grew so rapidly that gradual compensated emancipation became impossible and immediate emancipation threatened social disruption. In addition the Ohio River border was a safety valve, because those who were disappointed with their opportunities in Kentucky moved across the river. The migration of white settlers across the river, in turn, both gave them access to bound labor and led them to reject chattel slavery. By making careful distinctions between servitude and slavery [see p. 78-88] northern residents defined the Ohio River as the northern limit of the chattel principle, but they retained a system of bound labor.

Similar to Seth Rockman, stresses continuum of slave and free labor:

In reality, in antebellum America, African Americans could be capital, labor power, and laborers, and the Ohio River brought them all into juxtaposition. Enslaved and free African Americans experienced characteristics representative of both slavery and freedom, as along the Ohio River wage labor and chattel slavery became points on a capitalist continuum rather than mutually exclusive categories for African Americans (p. 6).

Kentucky Slavery

On settlement of Kentucky and spread of slavery there, see pp. 30-32. Several times notes that KY was “first state with a constitution that legally protected slavery” (p. 43), and covers the Kentucky slavery debates on pp. 45-51, noting the role that hiring out played in building broader base of support for slavery. “Opposition to slavery came primarily from the churches” (p. 45), and “even many of those Kentuckians who opposed slavery still felt compelled to take advantage of enslaved labor to establish their homesteads” (p. 46).

After the constitutional convention of 1799, “chattel slavery flourished in Kentucky” (pp. 72-78), not only because they provided labor but also because “in the cash-poor economy of frontier Kentucky, slaves were valuable commodities” who “were valuable even when owners did not need them for their own use” (p. 72). “The commodification of African Americans helped spread slavery, which created a common interest in the maintenance of the institution that crossed lines of class” (p. 73). Owning slaves also closely tied to political power in early 19c decades.

White Kentuckians moved to shore up this power by containment:

Whites wanted to facilitate the movement of African Americans as capital, but they also wanted to regulate the movement of all black laborers. Kentucky law granted slaveholders the absolute right to retrieve their human property. The slave code of 1798 allowed any citizen to apprehend a “suspected” runaway, and in Kentucky color was prima facie evidence of status. In one case the court declared that “experience teaches, that there is no danger to be apprehended from too great an alacrity, or passionate ardour, in apprehending slaves as runaways, without probable cause.” In addition free blacks had to carry proof of their freedom, and the enslaved had to carry passes from their owners (p. 76).

pp. 129-130:

Kentucky slaveholders knew they had to rely on the assistance of white Americans in Indiana and Ohio to control the movement of African Americans across the river. Just as the process of sale reified racial difference on both sides of the river through commodification, so too did reclamation strategies bring white Americans together in the practice of racial policing … Kentuckians relied on racial solidarity with their free-state neighbors and a shared mutual suspicion of both free and enslaved African Americans.

See also pp. 152-153 on “racial solidarity.”

Some examples of cases involving reclamation: the Stephens controversy of 1818 (circa p. 144) and the Fields-Woodruff case in 1821 (circa p. 149). “The crisis over fugitive reclamation revealed the limits of white philanthropy north of the river. African Americans could not always count on the local judge coming to their defense as happened with Moses. However, white residents were more willing to interfere in fugitive reclamation if they identified with the alleged fugitive as a citizen of Indiana or Ohio” (p. 150).

Kentuckians, for their part, made repeated demands on Indiana and Ohio to support their property rights in reclaiming fugitive slaves (see p. 161). This made freedom in Ohio precarious for fugitive slaves: see testimony of Andrew Jackson (p. 166), Lewis Clarke (p. 183), John Davis (p. 167), discussion on p. 171 of the fear of sale down river, with testimony of Harry Smith: “going to New Orleans was called the Nigger Hell, few ever returning who went there” (p. 171). Notes spike in slave prices in the 1850s (p. 175).