Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Civil Rights in the Shadow of Slavery by George Rutherglen


Scholars of constitutional law and civil rights will be interested in a new release from Oxford University Press. It is Civil Rights in the Shadow of Slavery: The Constitution, Common Law, and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 by George Rutherglen (UVA Law).  This short book (it comes in at only 224 pages) packs a powerful punch. It is an incredibly useful primer on the relationship between the 1866 Act and the Reconstruction Amendments; the book's arguments turn on both historical and legal analysis. OUP's description of Civil Rights in the Shadow of Slavery and  its table of contents follow.

The 1866 Civil Rights Act is one of the most monumental pieces of legislation in American history, figuring into almost every subsequent piece of legislation dealing with civil rights for the next century. While numerous scholars have looked at it in the larger social and political context of Reconstruction and its relationship with the Fourteenth Amendment, this will be the first book that focuses on its central role in the long history of civil rights. As George Rutherglen argues, the Act has structured debates and controversies about civil rights up to the present. The history of the Act itself speaks to the fundamental issues that continue to surround civil rights law: the contested meaning of racial equality; the distinction between public and private action; the division of power between the states and the federal government; and the role of the Supreme Court and Congress in implementing constitutional principles. Slavery, Freedom, and Civil Rights shows that the Act was not just an archetypal piece of Radical Republican legislation or merely a precursor to the Fourteenth Amendment. While its enactment led directly to passage of the amendment, their simultaneous existence going forward initiated a longstanding debate over the relationship between the two, and by proxy the Courts and Congress. How extensive was the Act's reach in relation to the Amendment? Could it regulate private discrimination? Supersede state law? What power did it endow to Congress, as opposed to the Courts? The debate spawned an important body of judicial doctrine dealing with almost all of the major issues in civil rights, and this book positions both the Act and its legacy in a broad historical canvas.
Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Birth of Civil Rights: The Circumstances, Acts, and Legacy of the 39th Congress 

Chapter 2: Citizenship, Slavery, and the Constitutional Origins of the Act 

Chapter 3: Reconceiving Civil Rights: The Passage and Structure of the Act 

Chapter 4: The High Tide of Reconstruction: The Fourteenth Amendment and Later Legislation 

Chapter 5: Restrictive Interpretations and the End of Reconstruction 

Chapter 6: The Verdict of Quiescent Years: Aliens, Property, and State Action 

Chapter 7: Resurrecting Civil Rights: Reading an Old Act for a New Era 

Chapter 8: Reaffirming the Revived Act: Extension, Reconsideration, and Recodification 

Chapter 9: Discerning the Future from the Past: The Contemporary Significance of the Act 


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