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Ambiguous Status

It is apparent that Isabel is conscious of the realities of the society in which she lives. Because of the ambiguous situation in which she finds herself—an unmarried, single woman of color in an “unexplored” territory—Isabel seems to understand that there are those who would question, at the very least, her right to exist, own property, and maintain a living without the consent of others (in the form of husband or master) in the northern territory. As Taylor and Moore comment, “[H]er words reveal an acute consciousness of the ever-changing constructions of race and freedom.” Isabel seems to be aware of the differential power relations which exist in her society. This deposition also informs the reader that there were free people of color at this time who were able to read and write and understood how to make the legal system work to their advantage (Taylor and Moore 2003:33).

NPS Ethnography Program