A Radical Notion of Democracy: Law, Race, and Albion Tourgée, 1865-1905
A Public Law and Humanities Symposium
Friday November 4, 2011 from 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM
State Library Building and State Capitol Building, Raleigh, NC
*Continuing Legal Education Credit of five hours has been approved.*
“A Radical Notion of Democracy: Law, Race, and Albion Tourgée, 1865-1905” recalls the legacies of Reconstruction to offer insight into ongoing policy debates. A former Union soldier, Albion Tourgée settled in Greensboro in 1865 in hopes of helping to shape the new post-slavery South. A lawyer, judge, novelist, and activist, Tourgée worked for racial equality in the state for thirteen years. His North Carolina legacy lives on in the provisions of the state Constitution guaranteeing free public education, as well as other reforms. He later achieved national fame for representing Homer Plessy in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the U.S. Supreme Court case that established separate-but-equal facilities as the foundation of de jure segregation.
The program features two keynote lectures and two panel discussions with eight distinguished scholars of law and history. Special attention will be devoted to Tourgée’s contributions to the North Carolina Constitution of 1868, including his commitment to the guarantee of equality in public education. The symposium also will consider Tourgée’s lasting contribution to the discourse of civil rights, as it has come down to us through Justice John Harlan’s dissent in Plessy: the concept of a “color-blind” Constitution. Concluding the day will be a reception and performance of Constitutional Tales in the House Chamber of the State Capitol, a live reenactment of scenes from the Constitutional Convention of 1868.
Archives and History / State Library Building Auditorium
8:30-9:15 - Coffee and sign-in
9:15 - Welcome and introduction
9:30-10:15 - Opening keynote address, Mark Elliott
10:30 -12:15 - Panel 1: A Fool's Errand? Reconstructing the Narrative of Freedom in North Carolina
Focus: Tourgée’s life as lawyer, judge, public servant, and novelist in Reconstruction North Carolina, 1865-79.
Ann McColl, moderator/presenter; John David Smith, Frank Woods, Carolyn Karcher, presenters.
12:15-1:30 - Lunch
1:30-3:15 - Panel 2: Literature Into Law: Interrogating Democracy in the Post-Reconstruction Nation
Focus: Tourgée as architect of Homer Plessy’s case, as well as the historical reception of his concept of “color-blind” justice.
Al Brophy, moderator/presenter; Brook Thomas, Michael Curtis, Judge Robert N. Hunter Jr., presenters.
3:30-4:15 p.m. - Closing keynote address, Blair Kelley
4:30-5:00 - Sneak preview of “The Story of North Carolina,” Part 2, new permanent exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History, tracing life in North Carolina from the Civil War through the late twentieth century at the State Capitol Building
5:30-6:30 - Constitutional Tales, in House chamber
6:30 - Light reception in Rotunda
Speaker bios are here (scroll down). Register for the conference here (it's free).