Monday, February 28, 2011

Memorial service for A.W. Brian Simpson

A Memorial Service for AW Brian Simpson, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School, will be held at 2.00 pm on Saturday, June 11th, at St Michael at the North Gate, Cornmarket Street, Oxford, followed by tea and refreshments at Lincoln College, Turl Street, Oxford.
Thank you to David Sugarman for this information.  Previous posts about Simpson are here and here

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Margie Pitts Hames and the Other Landmark Abortion Rights Case: Recalling a “Swashbuckling” Woman Lawyer

Many people know the name “Sarah Weddington.” The young lawyer famously litigated Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case. Weddington chronicled her feats in a memoir, A Question of Choice: By the Lawyer Who Won Roe v. Wade.

While an unquestionably important figure, Weddington did not, alone, fight for abortion rights for women. And Roe v. Wade did not, alone, establish a woman’s constitutional right to elect abortion.

Margie Pitts Hames, shown on the right (picture courtesy of the Fulton County Daily Report), litigated and won Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973), the companion case to Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). In Doe, Hames successfully challenged a Georgia statute that required abortions to be performed in hospitals and only with advance approval of a hospital committee. Together, Doe and Roe established that the constitutional right to privacy encompassed a woman’s decision whether to terminate her pregnancy. (Justice Blackmun wrote the opinion in Doe for the same 7-2 majority that ruled in favor of an abortion right in Roe). Hames’s victory in Doe earned her plaudits from contemporaries, who called her a “catalyst for women’s rights” and a "pioneer” for women’s equality.

Hames also litigated civil rights claims in police brutality, employment discrimination, welfare rights and education cases. Fresh off of her victory in Doe, she litigated an important school desegregation case; against the odds, Hames sought metropolitan-wide desegregation in Atlanta. I discovered the lawyer during research for my book, Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement, which discusses, among other things, the gap between the right articulated in Brown v. Board of Education and the remedies that plaintiffs actually achieved in the Atlanta school case. Hames’s varied experiences as a litigator illuminate how gender, race, and class—of clients, lawyers and decision makers of all sorts—shaped postwar struggles for equality.

“Hames’s story—and how she became a crusading feminist lawyer and civil rights advocate—says much about the sometimes unexpected ways in which people and causes find one another,” notes the chapter on this remarkable lawyer. A Southern white woman, Hames grew up on a farm in rural Tennessee. She was raised in a Christian home with strict, churchgoing parents—not traditionally a breeding ground for liberal causes. But her family was poor, and she lived and worked amidst black tenant farmers. “As a result of her close proximity to blacks, she could see their humanity.” Hames “developed the first stirrings of consciousness against both abortion restrictions and racial discrimination in her youth when a schoolteacher stated that the only acceptable time for an abortion was “when a black man raped a white woman.” This “moral” exception to abortion based on “racial prejudice” “planted the seed of doubt” in Hames’s mind about the anti-abortion position. When her classmates at Vanderbilt University School of Law repeated the same “moral” exception to abortion that her grade-school teacher had championed, Hames’s commitment to abortion rights work took root.

After considering her abortion rights work, the book examines Hames’s efforts in the school desegregation context. In the school case, Hames and her clients, mostly low-income black women who existed on society's bottom rungs, challenged the entire power structure of Atlanta. Most white and black decision makers had turned against school integration (if they had ever supported it). It came as no surprise that Hamesa woman once called a “swashbuckling” attorney by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's director-counsel, Jack Greenberg—defied convention and took on the fight.

Sharfstein, Invisible Line, The Black History of the White House, and more in the book pages

Legal historian Daniel Sharfstein's new book THE INVISIBLE LINE:  Three American Families and the ­Secret Journey From Black to White is reviewed today in the New York Times.  Raymond Arsenault calls it an "illuminating book" with "literary flair" that "demonstrates that African-Americans of mixed ancestry have been crossing the boundaries of color and racial identity since the early colonial era."  The book illuminates "persistent racial fluidity by painstakingly reconstructing the history of three families."  The families cross the color line
through a combination of means: sexual reproduction or intermarriage with whites; migration to remote frontier areas, where race-based institutions were often less formal than in more settled areas; and property accumulation, which allowed them to become valued members of white society. In the tradition of “whiteness studies,” the fashionable academic subfield that has transformed our understanding of race as a social construction, Sharfstein’s account stresses the power and importance of self-definition. For the Gibsons, Spencers and Walls, as for thousands of other families, “race is not just a set of rules. It is also a set of stories that people have told themselves and one another over and over again. Some are rooted in day-to-day living and hard-won experience, while others derive from fear and fantasy, hope and despair.”
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Bruce Watson calls the book "must reading."  The Associated Press finds it "sweeping." 

THE BLACK HISTORY OF THE WHITE HOUSE by Clarence Lusane and FAMILY OF FREEDOM: Presidents and African Americans in the White House by Kenneth T. Walsh are reviewed by Patricia Sullivan in the Washington Post.  Lusane's book
probes black interactions with the occupants of the White House through the experiences and accounts of slaves, servants, political strategists, entertainers, civil rights leaders and administrative officials....Drawing on the stories of a remarkable variety of individuals, the book opens with Oney Maria Judge's dramatic escape from the temporary presidential residence in Philadelphia, and George Washington's aggressive effort to capture her.
Also reviewed this week:THE-WOLVES: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor in the New York Times.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekend Round-up

  • Help on the job hunt: In the Service of Clio has compiled a list of useful web sites for history Ph.D.s who are considering a job outside of a traditional history department.
  • In commemoration of Presidents' Day, The Browser tapped H W Brands (University of Texas at Austin) to pick five must-read presidential biographies. His list may surprise you . . . .
  • This February also marks the 94th anniversary of the Mexican Constitution. Francisco MacĂ­as traces its history in a guest post at In Custodia Legis.
  • At a time when editors are doing less editing, what should an author do to ensure a top quality manuscript? Randall Stephens, in a post at The Historical Society, discusses.
The Weekend Round-up is a weekly feature compiled by all the Legal History bloggers.

Friday, February 25, 2011

More on Historians as Expert Witnesses

Following on the heels of Tomiko's thoughtful post on historians' engagement in public life ("Say Something Historical!"), I noticed this plea for information about historians serving as expert witnesses. It comes from Bill Childs (Western New England School of Law), over at TortsProf Blog:

I've written, both here and in more formal settings, a bit about historians serving as expert witnesses in litigation -- mostly in the setting of toxic torts. This year, I'm starting a long-term project examining the broader role of historians in all sorts of litigation settings. The first step will be an attempt to catalog in wiki form -- as exhaustively as possible -- all of the instances of historians serving as expert witnesses.

The wiki will not immediately be public; I want to get it started and figure out the standardization before opening it up to others. But it will be made public sometime relatively early in the process. I expect it to include both information about experts (and the litigation in which they have participated) and original documents -- expert reports, briefing, judicial orders and opinions, and so on.

And so, I turn to you, our readers. If you have anything relating to historians serving in litigation settings -- in any context -- please send it to me. I'm looking broadly, so if it's someone who is opining in the context of history even though the expert's field is formally something else, send it. I figure more is better than less at this point.

Professor Childs' contact information is here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jan. 2011 issue of Perspectives on History is available

The January 2011 issue of the AHA's newsmagazine, Perspectives on History, is now available to non-subscribers. It is worth a look.

In the "From the President" column, Anthony Grafton (Princeton University) discusses the "hydra-headed" indictment of history (and the humanities more generally). He also suggests how historians ought to defend themselves. Here's a taste:
By doing history as well as we can, we are searching for exact knowledge, and teaching students, undergraduate and graduate, to do the same. We’re modeling honest, first-hand inquiry. That austere, principled quest for knowledge matters: matters more than ever in the current media world, in which lies about the past, like lies about the present, move faster than ever before. The problem is that it’s a quest without a Grail. The best conclusions we can draw, scrutinizing our evidence and our inferences as fiercely and scrupulously as we can, will be provisional. We will disagree with our contemporaries, and the next generation will replace our conclusions, and theirs, with new ones. But the fact that the search goes on—and the energy and integrity that the searchers put into it—matter deeply, for the health of our culture.
The full column is here.

In the "Art of History" column, legal historian Laura Edwards (Duke University) ruminates on "Writing between the Past and the Present." "Writing is difficult," she observes, "because it is more than simply describing historical evidence":
Writing is the process through which we make sense of those materials. The mechanics resist analysis, although most of us have experienced their workings in those moments of searing clarity or intense frustration when it becomes difficult to ignore the insight that writing itself creates meaning. When the process works, the evidence begins to take on new shapes through our prose, allowing us to see elements of the past that we had not recognized before. Then there are those times when writing reveals only the distance between us and the past. What we thought we knew suddenly disappears when we sit down to write, leaving us only with a muddle of meaningless words. At some basic level, the challenges of writing are about this elusive relationship between the historian and the past. We work through it from the moment we step into the archives. But it is the act of writing, itself, that places us in a direct conversation with the past.
The full column is here.

Other highlights from the issue:
  • Robert B. Townsend (AHA's assistant director for research and publications) discusses how economic woes are affecting history departments, and what some departments are doing to cope (here).
  • Kristen Collins (Boston University) and Linda Kerber (University of Iowa) discuss why the Supreme Court should strike down an old citizenship law that discriminates against fathers ("Sexing Citizenship," available here).
  • Robert A. Schneider (Indiana University) and John K. Thornton (Boston University) discuss history in the digital age (here and here).
image credit

From the Journal of American History

The Journal of American History, Vol. 97, No. 3 (Dec. 2010) (pp. 636–58), includes Melissa Klapper's article, “Those by Whose Side We Have Labored”: American Jewish Women and the Peace Movement between the Wars.

Here is the abstract:

Participating enthusiastically in American public life was one of the ways that turn-of- the-century American Jewish women achieved a measure of integration. Melissa R. Klapper traces the understudied social activism of American Jewish women in the peace movement between the world wars, exploring the multiple motivations for their participation and analyzing its impact on the early twentieth-century women’s movement. Klapper argues that despite Jewish women’s investment in the movement, Nazism and anti-Semitism at home and abroad before World War II and the apparent silence of their colleagues in the peace movement led even the most passionate female Jewish peace activists to reconsider their commitments. In the face of these challenges, Klapper explains, these female activists ultimately redirected their political ideals toward Jewish identity and survival rather than sisterhood or universal peace.

Members can access the full article online, here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mortenson on Executive Power and the Discipline of History

Executive Power and the Discipline of History is a new article by Julian Davis Mortenson, Michigan Law School.  It appears in the University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 78, p. 377, 2011.  Here's the abstract:
In a trilogy of books published after September 11, John Yoo has argued that George W. Bush’s counter-terrorism efforts were well grounded in both law and policy. As a rhetorical matter, Yoo largely grounds his legal claims in British and American history. But his conclusions are not actually tethered to plausible historical analysis. To demonstrate that fact, this essay focuses on three legal problems presented by the first-term Bush administration: the question of presidential preeminence in conflict with Congress; the question of presidential susceptibility to judicial supervision; and the question of presidential power to start armed hostilities. On each issue, the historical evidence suggests an American constitutional tradition that is wholly at odds with both Yoo’s own conclusions and the positions advanced by the Bush administration. Yoo’s legal claims therefore depend entirely on an underdeveloped theoretical proposition about national risk tolerance during crisis. This essay does not attempt to resolve the validity of that proposition. But the surviving argument must be recognized for what it is: a first principles assertion about political theory that has little to do with either law qua law or the discipline of history.

Speaking of Historians and Public Activism

A recently-formed group, "Historians Against Slavery," hopes to call attention to human trafficking. Its founder, Professor James Brewer Stewart of Macalester College, calls trafficking for labor and sex "today's slavery" and compares it to yesterday's trans-Atlantic African chattel slavery. In rallying scholars to support the group, its founder invoked the names of John Hope Franklin, C. Vann Woodward, and Kenneth Stamp, "historians who changed the national conversation about social justice." "The ember is fading," said Stewart.

The group's website explains that its members are academics who "have become abolitionists." David Brion Davis, the distinguished professor of history and expert on slavery (Yale, emeritus), is a founding member of Historians Against Slavery. Its Board of Directors includes Professor Joyce Appleby (UCLA, emeritus) and Lonnie Bunch, Director, Museum of African American History and Culture, The Smithsonian Institution.

Historians Against Slavery intends to use history as a "tool" for opposing contemporary slavery and cites the following "facts" to "urge abolitionist activism":

Three times as many people all over the world today are bought, sold, detained coerced and uncompensated than there were enslaved Africans in the western hemisphere when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation—around 9 million then, approximately 27 million now. Is slavery less a crime against humanity this week than it was before the Civil War? If our answer is “no”, what should we be doing about it?

Organizations engaged in day-to-day antislavery work are all but invisible to most Americans and attract almost no popular support. Animal Rights is far more popular a cause today than freeing people from slavery. Should pets continue being valued over people? How might Frederick Douglass or Sojourner Truth have responded to this question?

Was slavery truly abolished in the United States in 1865? Despite the Thirteenth Amendment large numbers of African Americans were bought and sold as exploited prison labor well into the 20th century. White reformers meanwhile condemned the widespread sexual trafficking of European immigrant women as “white slavery.” How does this history “post-emancipation slavery” relate to today’s racialized incarceration rates, the rise of for-profit prisons and the alarming spread of sexual enslavement in the United States?

Back in Lincoln’s time, thousands of ordinary people spent lifetimes fighting against slavery. How did they manage this and what lessons might we learn from their struggles? Why, by contrast, are there so few militant abolitionists today? How might a fuller understanding of our abolitionist past work against apathy and promote a new antislavery movement?

For more on the group and its thought-provoking framing of the problem of human trafficking, see

CFP: AALS Section on Law and Humanities

Call for Panelists:  AALS Section on Law and Humanities
“Excavating and Integrating Law and Humanities in the Core Curriculum”
2012 AALS Annual Meeting
January 4-8, 2012, Washington, D.C.

The AALS Section on Law and Humanities will hold a program during the AALS 2012 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. with panelists who will share methods of teaching law and humanities perspectives in “core courses” such as property, torts, contracts, corporations, federal income tax, civil procedure, contracts, or criminal law, and others not traditionally understood to include these perspectives.
Many agree that law and humanities perspectives are important vehicles for unpacking the substantive content of the core curriculum, as well as for building and honing key skills necessary for legal practice.  Though many acknowledge that these perspectives are vitally important, there is less agreement as to how faculty can successfully implement these perspectives in their classrooms.  This program will include a variety of panelists and will explore ways law and humanities perspectives can be used successfully to enrich law school teaching.
To be considered as a panelist, please submit a statement of interest by Friday, March 25, 2011, including a description (2-3 paragraphs is sufficient) of the course that you teach and the methods that you use to excavate and integrate law and humanities perspectives that you would discuss as part of the panel.  Please also submit an updated curriculum vitae.

Panelists will be selected by April 11, 2011.  Each selected panelist will be required to submit a 4-6 page draft in October 2011, describing their law and humanities teaching technique(s), for use by the moderator.  The Section hopes to have these papers published as part of an online mini-symposium sponsored by the California Law Review.

All panelists will be responsible for paying their annual meeting registration fee and travel expenses. Full-time faculty members of AALS member and fee-paid law schools are eligible to submit papers. Foreign, visiting (and not full-time on a different faculty) and adjunct faculty members, graduate students, and fellows are not eligible to submit.

Any inquiries about the Call for Panelists should be submitted to Professor Melissa Murray, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law via electronic mail.