Louisa May Alcott: My Contraband (2511 words)


Standard definitions of the noun “contraband” include “illegal or prohibited traffic” and “goods whose importation, exportation, or possession is forbidden”. In 1863, when Louisa May Alcott composed a work of short fiction based on her experience as a Civil War nurse, the term carried an added meaning. Early in the war, the U.S. Congress passed Confiscation Acts stipulating that slaves who had escaped from the South and reached Union lines would not be returned to their owners. Instead, they were designated “contraband of war” and “freed if captured”. The ingenious law defined slaves as owned property in order to grant them the exact opposite status: that of emancipated persons.…

Citation: Chura, Patrick. "My Contraband". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 10 September 2021 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=40548, accessed 18 September 2021.]

40548 My Contraband 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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