In partnership with the Maryland Center for the Book at Maryland Humanities, the Virginia Center for the Book at Virginia Humanities presents William G. Thomas III as he shares his intricate and intensely human history of enslaved families of Prince George’s County, Maryland, and the hundreds of lawsuits they brought against slavery.

Thomas’s book, A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War was recently announced the winner of the 2021 Neiman Foundation/Columbia School of Journalism Mark Lynton Prize in History. Thomas will discuss the longest and most complex legal challenge to slavery in American history, lawyers who supported the enslaved families, the slaveholders and others who defended slavery, and its present day legacies, in conversation with Omar Eaton-Martinez, Assistant Division Chief, Historical Resources for Prince George’s County Parks & Recreation.

This virtual event is FREE to attend and open to the public. To attend, please register below to take part on Zoom or simply make plans to watch the livestream on

Thanks to our bookseller for this event, UVA Bookstore.

“Slaves sued slaveholders in every court available to them and in every jurisdiction they could reach from the very beginning of the United States.”

William Thomas, A Question of Freedom

“A rich, roiling history that Thomas recounts with eloquence and skill. . . . The very existence of freedom suits assumed that slavery could only be circumscribed and local; what Thomas shows in his illuminating book is how this view was eventually turned upside down in decisions like Dred Scott. ‘Freedom was local,’ Thomas writes. ‘Slavery was national.’” —Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

“Here is a strikingly original, eloquent, and humane book on an inhumane institution. The story restores the names and histories of people who fought for freedom for generations.” —Edward Ayers, author of The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America

“With its vivid narration, revelatory research, careful contextualization, and bracing honesty, A Question of Freedom demonstrates that freedom suits were not isolated episodes but instead a major form of slave resistance, with far-reaching and ongoing effects in the long freedom struggle. This book is essential reading for understanding the history of slavery and the modern debate over reparations.” —Elizabeth R. Varon, author of Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War

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