In 1855, a 19-year-old woman named Celia was executed by hanging in Missouri. Her crime? She had murdered her owner, a man who purchased her when she was just 14 years old and had been forcing her to be his concubine ever since.
There was no dispute that she had killed him. She had even confessed. But Celia’s defense attorneys boldly argued that Celia was permitted to use deadly force to protect herself from rape, basing their argument on a Missouri statute intended to protect white women. Elsewhere in the South, assault on a slave was considered “trespass,” and because in this case the rapist was also Celia’s owner, he was not able to trespass on his own property. Full Article