THE 1855 MURDER CASE OF MISSOURI V. CELIA, AN ENSLAVED WOMAN An Exercise in Historical Imagination

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Reconstructs the conviction of a slave girl found guilty of beating and burning to death her owner, the man who fathered her three children. The political climate of pre-Civil War Missouri did not favor justice for an enslaved girl who confessed to murdering her owner, even though those acquainted with the case believed she could not have committed the deed.


“Brooks de Vita gives voices to the human actors who occasioned the court action but whose real thoughts and motives will never be fully known.” – Dr. Ralph J. Hexter, Hampshire College

“. . . provides an eloquent and profound examination of the complexity of the 1855 murder mystery with its social and political contexts. She has the case re-tried in a ‘textual tribunal’ set up through her articulate and sensitive narrative, which will challenge each reader to become a jury of history and conscience.” – Prof. Haiqing Sun, Texas Southern University

“. . . offers a unique analysis that excavates the deep secrets and arresting circumstances of both the homicide, itself, as well as the trial and execution of the sentence.” – Prof. Karla F. C. Holloway, Duke University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Ralph J. Hexter
Prologue: Cornered
Chapter One: Rain
Chapter Two: Red Ribbon Round Her Neck
Chapter Three: Strange and Blessed Night
Chapter Four: Along the Shattered Surface
Chapter Five: Shame
Chapter Six: You Give Things Up
Chapter Seven: Walk It Again
Chapter Eight: Rocking Like You Do a Baby
Chapter Nine: The Cold and the Dark

Chapter Ten: The Water and the Woods Chapter Eleven: Rage
Chapter Twelve: Cudgel
Chapter Thirteen: Blaze
Chapter Fourteen: Trapped
Epilogue: Flight
Afterword by Karla F. C. Holloway
Selected Bibliography

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