Frances Bell

Pre-Doctoral Fellow

Dissertation Title:
In a State of Flight’: The Struggle for Freedom in the Haitian Diaspora, 1791-1830

Frances Bell is a PhD candidate in History at William & Mary, focusing on the legalities of slavery in the age of abolition. Her dissertation, titled "'In a State of Flight': The Struggle for Freedom in the Haitian Diaspora, 1791-1830," examines the legal and social interactions of several thousand people who were taken as slaves from revolutionary Haiti to the United States by enslavers fleeing the revolution. Following their journeys from revolutionary Haiti to the eastern seaboard of the United States, this project examines how enslaved Haitians acquired legal knowledge and formed social networks as they sought out different forms of legal and extra-legal freedom. Her work highlights the precarity of legal freedom in the revolutionary Atlantic, arguing that individual struggles over mobility were intrinsic to the legalities of slavery. Frances’s work has been supported by the Omohundro Institute and the Folger Institute, and has been published in the Selected Papers of the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era, 1750-1850. 

The College of William & Mary