James Schmidt evaluates the analysis of law and society in Israel on the Appomattox. Schmidt notes that Ely makes a signal contribution to our understanding about how the daily practice of law regarding free people of color in the antebellum South diverged significantly from the restrictive assertions of statute. Southern legal sources from outside Virginia support Ely's view. From a broader viewpoint, Schmidt suggests, these everyday legal enactments shored up social categories asserted through the raced language of the law, authorizing the in-between status of “free people of color” and constricting access to citizenship for free people of color.

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