Saturday, May 15, 2010

Transitional Justice and the Freedman's Bank at the Library of Congress

Here are two upcoming lectures of possible interest to legal historians at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress. Both will be held in the Thomas Jefferson Building, 101 Independence Ave. Washington, DC 20540.

May 20, 2010
“Transitional Justice or Just Transitions? The German Case, 1945-50," Devin Pendas, Burkhardt Fellow, at 12:00 in LJ-119, Thomas Jefferson Building.

While everyone has heard of the Nuremberg Trials, few people are aware that at that same time, tens of thousands of Germans were being prosecuted in German courts for Nazi crimes. Historian Devin Pendas will discuss the surprising role these trials played in the early history of the two Germanys, West and East. Contrary to what many advocates of what has come to be called "transitional justice" would expect, prosecuting Nazi atrocities played an important role in consolidating East Germany's emerging Stalinist dictatorship. And it was West German hostility to prosecuting Nazi crimes that proved most important to its eventual democratic success.

May 26, 2010
“Failure of the Freedman’s Bank: Freedom, Finance and Security in 19th c. American Capitalism,” Jonathan Levy, Mellon Fellow, at 12:00 in LJ-119, Thomas Jefferson Building.

In 1865, Congress chartered the non-profit "Freedman's Savings and Trust Company," a savings bank designed for a population of four million newly emancipated American slaves. By 1873, it had received a staggering $50,000,000 in deposits. But the banking house Jay Cooke & Co. was charged with investing the freedpeople's savings, and when Jay Cooke & Co. failed during the panic of 1873, so did the Freedman's Bank. Liberated from their former masters, the freedpeople had very suddenly come face to face with the frenzied finance of the Gilded Age.

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