Daniele Celano

John L. Nau III Jefferson Fellow
B.A. Purdue University (2018) with Honors
M.A. University of Virginia (2020)
College of Arts & Sciences


Daniele’s dissertation, “Conflicting Laws of Liberty,” focuses on the breakdown of fugitive slave rendition in the slaveholding border states, with a focus on Kentucky. Analyzing the interplay between fugitive slave litigation and civil liberties claims is key to examining the larger Constitutional significance of military emancipation. During the Civil War, the flight of enslaved men and women to Union lines sparked a legal conflict that pit recalcitrant slaveholders against military officials, which raised the question of whether the federal government could undermine loyal state slave codes due to the war. As enslaved people asserted rights to freedom through flight and USCT service, federal officials vested unprecedented legitimacy in enslaved resistance through military policies that eroded slavery, which pro-slavery Kentuckians challenged by launching legal objections to the federal war powers. Daniele’s dissertation is a study of legal pluralism; tracing the evolution of fugitive slave law exposes how national civil liberties policies designed to curtail insurrection shaped the legal process of emancipation, which provides crucial context for the 1864 Congressional repeal of the Fugitive Slave Acts.

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