|Laura Edwards (credit)|
The American Bar Foundation has appointed Laura F. Edwards, the Peabody Family Professor of History at Duke University, as the 2016-17 William H. Neukom Fellows Research Chair in Diversity and Law. An award-winning historian, Edwards is an expert on race, gender, and the law. Her research focuses on how disadvantaged and dependent groups such as slaves, women, and children used the law in the nineteenth-century U.S. South to maintain peace and empower themselves with rights.
The Neukom Fellows Research Chair was established in 2014 to lead the ABF’s empirical research on law and legal processes, relating to issues of diversity and inequality that woman, people of color, people with disabilities, and persons from the LGBTQ community face in the justice system. It was created to build upon the work of the ABF’s Research Group on Legal Diversity, a network of scholars who conduct empirical research on diversity in the legal profession and institutions of justice, as well as the impact of diversity on legal processes and institutions.
During her year as the Neukom Fellows Research Chair, Edwards will work on a research project entitled “Only the Clothes on Her Back: Women, Textiles, and State Formation in the Nineteenth-Century United States.” The project explores the relationship between U.S. textile trade in the nineteenth century and institutions of law and governance. It will reveal the ways in which subordinated groups engaged in trade, used the legal system, and ultimately shaped the nation’s governing institutions. The research will provide a new framework for understanding the development of inequality in the United States, demonstrating that problems of inequality today are more entrenched and therefore, more difficult to resolve.