Reconstruction Period Research Forum
Looking at court cases
The 19th century courts were used by enslaved persons, sometimes successfully, to gain their freedom. One case, in the 1850's, involved 'Matilda'.
I found Matilda's children in the 1870 census, still living in the same county. There was no sign of Matilda, who would have been about 50 years old in 1870.
Read more about it.