How did Africans become ‘blacks’ in the Americas? Based on the book she co-authored with Alejandro de la Fuente, “Becoming Free, Becoming Black,” Gross tells the story of enslaved and free people of color who used the law to claim freedom and citizenship for themselves and their loved ones. Their communities challenged slaveholders’ efforts to make blackness synonymous with slavery. Looking closely at three slave societies – Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana, she demonstrates that the law of freedom – not slavery – established the meaning of blackness in law. Contests over freedom determined whether and how it was possible to move from slave to free status, and whether claims to citizenship would be tied to racial identity. Laws regulating the lives and institutions of free people of color created the boundaries between black and white, the rights reserved to white people, and the degradations imposed only on black people.