“In the Exercise of a Sound Discretion, Who, of This Class of Persons, Shall Have a Right to the License…”: Family, Race, and Firearms in Antebellum North Carolina

Previously posted at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0363199019863839?ai=2b4&mi=ehikzz&af=R

Journal of Family History, Ahead of Print.
In 1841, North Carolina passed a law requiring free black people to acquire firearm licenses from their county court. This essay argues that the license requirement forced free black people to rely on their families’ support to access firearms, which sits contrary to the “individual right” framework that firearms are often viewed through. Family members helped free black people to construct racial identities, highlight trustworthiness, connect individuals to patrons and professional networks, and manage legal fees, all in pursuit of firearm access. This essay contributes to our understanding of antebellum black families and their connections to their broader interracial communities.