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As If She Were Free brings together the biographies of twenty-four women of African descent to reveal how enslaved and recently freed women sought, imagined, and found freedom from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries in the Americas. Our biographical approach allows readers to view large social processes – migration, trade, enslavement, emancipation – through the perspective of individual women moving across the boundaries of slavery and freedom. For some women, freedom meant liberation and legal protection from slavery, while others focused on gaining economic, personal, political, and social rights. Rather than simply defining emancipation as a legal status that was conferred by those in authority and framing women as passive recipients of freedom, these life stories demonstrate that women were agents of emancipation, claiming free status in the courts, fighting for liberty, and defining and experiencing freedom in a surprising and inspiring range of ways.