Saturday, January 31, 2009

American Bar Foundation Call for Visitors

The American Bar Foundation invites scholars to join the intellectual community of the ABF for the 2009-2010 academic year (8/30/09 to 6/30/10).
For visitors, the ABF offers an office, phone, and computer but no stipend. The ABF encourages national and international scholars on leave or sabbatical to take advantage of the ABF's diverse intellectual community and excellent facilities.
Preference will be given to visitors whose scholarship coincides with the research agenda of the ABF and who will be in residence fulltime. Visitors will participate in the intellectual life of the ABF, including participation in seminars.
If you have an interest in this opportunity, please send an email to Robert Nelson at, subject line :Visiting Scholars Program, which states (1) the topic on which you are working, (2) the preferred dates for residence, and (3) the days each week you would expect to be at the ABF, (4) attach a CV. Applications should be received by February 28, 2009, though later applications will be considered as space allows. The ABF Appointments Committee will review applications and prospective visitors will be notified in Spring 2009.

More info, including links to other ABF programs, is here. Hat tip: H-Law.

University of North Carolina Press Publishes "the Long Civil Rights Movement"

The University of North Carolina and its Press has launched a publishing project devoted to the long civil rights movement, which is supported by a blog and a scholarly conference, The Long Civil Rights Movement: Histories, Politics, Memories, scheduled for April 2-4, 2009. Here is a description:

Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement seeks to inspire scholarly collaboration and develop new ways of creating and sharing scholarship on the civil rights movement.

Building on the extensive record of both UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC Press in producing and publishing distinguished scholarship about civil rights and other movements for social and economic justice, especially in the American South, this collaborative project will focus on the long civil rights movement. Much of the intellectual scaffolding of this theme—and the first use of the term—can be found in the widely cited and anthologized essay, “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Spruill Professor of History and Director of the SOHP. The essay was delivered in 2004 as her presidential address to the Organization of American Historians and published the following year in the Journal of American History.

The project will encourage scholars in a wide variety of fields to rethink the conventional narrative that confines the civil rights movement to the dramatic decade-long effort to overthrow legal segregation in the American South. The project will expand the understanding of the civil rights movement in important ways—chronologically, demographically, thematically, and geographically—thus stimulating work that ranges widely in space and time. The project will stress the modern phase of the struggle that began in the 1930s and spawned a series of other social movements from the 1960s on. Although the project will focus primarily on the South, it will stress the region’s convergences with other parts of the U.S. and explore global influences and global resonances.

Reframing the traditional narrative in this way raises a host of intriguing questions. For example, how has the civil rights movement affected other freedom struggles around the world, and how has it been affected by them? How have the movements for economic, environmental, criminal, and social justice been influenced by global movements of labor and capital? What has been the effect of demographic change, whether internal migration or immigration? How different does the struggle for civil rights look when viewed through the lens of gender or the lens of class? How useful is the concept of southern distinctiveness? What has been the impact of popular culture, and what roles have the movie, music, and other cultural industries played in the long civil rights movement? How have individual and social memories of the civil rights movement affected legal outcomes and policy debates? Why is the resegregation of schools now on the rise? What are the relationships among the various movements spawned by the civil rights movement—for example, second-wave feminism, the gay rights movement, the Latina/o movement, and movements for Native American sovereignty? How have these and other movements, both progressive and conservative, appropriated the rhetoric, symbols, and legacy of civil rights? The list of questions ripe for scholarly exploration is seemingly endless.

The urgency with which the project partners approach these questions derives from their conviction that the world we live in today—whether examined on a local, state, regional, national, or international scale—was produced by the contradictory outcomes of the long civil rights movement. By collaborating in collecting, documenting, interpreting, and publishing materials related to this many-faceted phenomenon, the partners seek to overcome a false sense of closure that relegates the struggle for racial equality to the past and to a distinctive and benighted region of the country. They also seek to enhance scholarly understanding and public dialogue on the challenges that we, as a society and a people, now face.

Oldham on the Economic Consequences of Divorce

J. Thomas Oldham, University of Houston Law Center, has posted Changes in the Economic Consequences of Divorces, 1958-2008, which also appears in the Family Law Quarterly 42 (2008). Here is the abstract:
This article, part of an issue that surveys changes in family law over the past 50 years, discusses how the economic consequences of divorce have changed during this period. This article surveys some of the various social changes that have had an impact, such as changes in the divorce rate, changes in the characteristics of divorcing couples, and changes in women's participation in the work force. Some family law legal changes are also discussed, such as the acceptance of equitable distribution and changes in rules applicable to spousal support. Other legal changes are mentioned, such as the acceptance of premarital agreements, the adoption of Medicare, and the acceptance of no-fault divorce.

The article notes that some very general consensus seems to be evolving regarding child support awards and marital property rules. In contrast, very different (and frequently unclear) standards are applied across the country regarding spousal support. The article discusses recent developments in Canada regarding the adoption of advisory spousal support guidelines as one potential avenue to increase predictability of spousal support awards in the U. S.
Image credit.

Friday, January 30, 2009

MLK scholar Clayborne Carson to speak at launch of new California International Law Center

Clayborne Carson, Professor of History and founding Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University will speak on "The Global Vision and Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr." at the launch of the new California International Law Center at UC Davis School of Law. Diane Amann, founder of the IntLawGrrls blog, is Director of the new Center. The event will take place from 12-1 pm in King Hall's Wilkins Moot Courtroom on the UC Davis campus.

At a time of retrenchment in higher education, it is nice to hear news of a law school building a new program. As for the Martin Luther King connection, the law school's building, according to the announcement, "was dedicated to memory of the slain civil rights leader on April 12, 1969." King was killed in April 1968. Davis Dean Kevin Johnson explains: "As we mark our fortieth anniversary at King Hall, the inauguration of the California International Law Center offers us a perfect opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the legacy of Dr. King, who did so much to promote justice and equality not only in the United States but around the world."

More details are here. Carson, editor of the King papers at Stanford, is the author of the civil rights history classic In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (1981), and other works. His address will be posted on the UC Davis School of Law website.

Tirres on Law and Community in the Nineteenth Century

Allison Brownell Tirres, DePaul University College of Law, has posted a new essay, The View from the Border: Law and Community in the Nineteenth Century. It is forthcoming in TRANSFORMATIONS IN AMERICAN LEGAL HISTORY: ESSAYS IN HONOR OF MORTON J. HORWITZ, VOL. 2, Alfred L. Brophy, Daniel W. Hamilton, eds., Harvard University Press, 2009. Here's the abstract:
This book chapter traces the efforts of the citizens of El Paso, Texas, to bring the power of the American state to the border in the 1850s. It looks at two areas in particular: property rights and border enforcement. Because of the marked lack of state or federal involvement in the borderlands during this period, residents had to take extra steps to ensure the involvement of the state in both these areas. To support land rights, they actively sought state recognition of land titles, something that should have been self-enforcing and yet instead required their active participation. To protect their persons and property, they sought to force the federal government to uphold its treaty obligations, particularly Article 11 of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which guaranteed protection from cross-border raiding Indian tribes. In both these areas - property rights and treaty compliance -state and federal governments should have taken the lead. Instead, in El Paso we see that border residents had to take action were there to be any hope of enforcement. What is remarkable about the petitions and requests that are the subject of this essay is that they came not only from Anglo-American recent arrivals but also from those of Mexican and Native American descent in the El Paso area. This contradicts the prevailing scholarship in the history of law and colonization in the western United States, in which law is seen as a tool of conquest wielded by American occupiers.

Lawyer's Humor, Circa 1875

Here is an exchange from the late, lamented era in which legal information circulated in books. It was published in the American Bar Association Journal in 1923.
Omaha, Nebr, September 13, 1875.

To Hon. E. Wakeley.
Dear Judge: I hold your receipt for Abbott’s Nat. Digest which was taken by you some four months ago. If you have no further use for the book I should like it. I often wish to consult it, but still if you are not through reading it I can get along without it.

Yours truly,

Omaha, Nebr, September 14, 1875.

Dear Ambrose:
I herewith comply (under protest) with your untimely request that I should return your book.

You remark that you have held my receipt for it some four months. This is probably true. But if you will read the statute of limitations of Nebraska you will observe that it does not bar a claim under any written instrument until the lapse of five years, leaving you about four years and eight months still, to claim your book.
Why this precipitancy?

You will permit me, as a searcher after full knowledge, respectfully to inquire if you can refer me to any respectable authority requiring the borrower of a law book to return it within four months. You remark that you often wish to consult the book. I highly commend that resolution. You would certainly find it beneficial to occasionally read some law; and if you should become accustomed to it, you would find it comparatively easy, only don’t overdo it at first.

The only thing that I object to in that paragraph is an implication that I would not allow you to consult that book at my office. This is unjust. I have never refused the owner of a book that privilege, even when it has occasioned inconvenience to myself. In conclusion, permit me to suggest that, if you really cannot afford to keep law books for other practitioners to use, it would be a philanthropic thing for you to sell them to some one who can.

Gratefully yours,

Jarvis on a Pioneer of Aviation Law

Robert M. Jarvis, Nova Southeastern University Law Center has posted Carl Zollmann: Aviation Law Casebook Pioneer, which also appears in the Journal of Air Law and Commerce 73 (2008). Here is the abstract:
Aviation law, after years of languishing on the sidelines, currently is enjoying unprecedented popularity in American law schools. Much of this interest has to do with the terrible events of September 11, which dramatically reshaped the airline industry while making it clear just how much our society depends on air travel. But at least some of the attention is due to the fact that, for the first time in history, instructors can choose from three competing aviation law casebooks. Previously, there had never been more than one text available at any given moment, and during many periods no such work existed.

The current crop of writings continues a line of legal scholarship that traces its roots back to Carl Zollmann, a Marquette University law professor who published one of the first aviation law hornbooks and the first aviation law casebook. In his heyday, Zollmann (often incorrectly identified in print as "Zollman") was a figure of towering importance, yet today scarcely anyone remembers him. Accordingly, it is the purpose of this essay to shed some light on a man who has receded into history's shadows even as the field he did so much to create prospers.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

M'Baye reviews Dudziak, "Exporting American Dreams"

Thurgood Marshall in Africa is an H-Law review by Babacar M'Baye, Department of English and Department of Pan-African Studies, Kent State University, of Mary Dudziak's Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey. The review commences:
Mary L. Dudziak's Exporting American Dreams successfully explores the relations between Thurgood Marshall and Africa through the prism of African American connections with Africa during the twentieth century. The book also examines the ironic and complicated status of African Americans who experienced the inequalities, frustration, and poverty that institutionalized segregation and racism had fostered in the United States during the 1950s.
M'Baye continues:
Exporting American Dreams participates in a promising scholarship on African American relationships with Africa, joining such works as Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993),Tunde Adeleke's UnAfrican Americans: Nineteenth-Century Black Nationalists and the Civilizing Mission (1998), John Cullen Gruesser's Black on Black: Twentieth-Century African American Writing about Africa (2000), Brent Hayes Edwards's The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (2003), and [James] Campbell's Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787-2005 (2006). These works have expanded the promising field of black Atlantic studies by examining the relations between black literary and political figures in the United States and Africa within interdisciplinary frameworks.
M'Baye concludes:
In sum, the book suggests the fleeting nature of democratic ideals in the mid-twentieth century, the exportation of which was easily spoiled when they became a fleeting illusion, rather than a feasible dream, in the lives of African Americans in the United States.
The entire review is here.

Bad News for Book Reviews

Many of the reviews noted on Sundays on the Legal History Blog are published in the Washington Post's excellent Book World section. Book reviews will continue in the Post, but the New York Times reports that "In another sign that literary criticism is losing its profile in newspapers, The Washington Post has decided to shutter the print version of Book World, its Sunday stand-alone book review section, and shift reviews to space inside two other sections of the paper." The last print issue of Book World will be February 15, although it will "continue to be published online as a distinct entity." This comes as other papers, including the Los Angeles Times, have already cut back on book coverage. Hat tip.

Meanwhile, Al Brophy worries that attention in the law reviews is focused on only a few books, though he also finds a fairly long list of reviews that devote at least some attention to books. More from Al is here. The most important place for history reviews remains the history journals, including the AHR and JAH.

For law-related books, any downturn in print coverage means two things:

First, there is an opening for any good journal to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack by featuring book reviews and commentary. With more legal scholars turning to books, in part as a way to broaden their reach, there will always be great books out there worthy of critical engagements.

Second, as with most aspects of our lives as scholars, on-line venues become more important. There are already superb reviews on-line. The excellent Law and Politics Book Review covers many works of legal history. H-Law is the best on-line source for reviews specifically in legal history. Many blogs feature books, such as the Legal Theory Blog's Bookworm feature.

Historian Douglas Brinkley has another solution. He suggests that "the book industry and book reviews deserved some kind of public bailout. 'I think that just like public television — I think book review sections almost need to get subsidized to keep the intellectual life in America alive,' Mr. Brinkley said. 'So if we can do that for radio, and we could do it for television, why can’t we do it for the book industry, which is terribly suffering right now?'"

Photo credits: 1 and 2.

Ray on Rutledge and Stevens, JJ.

Laura Ray, Widener University School of Law, has posted Clerk and Justice: The Ties that Bind John Paul Stevens and Wiley B. Rutledge, published in the Connecticut Law Review (2008), Here's the abstract:

Justice John Paul Stevens, now starting his thirty-third full term on the Supreme Court, served as law clerk to Justice Wiley B. Rutledge during the Court's 1947 Term. That experience has informed both elements of Stevens's jurisprudence and aspects of his approach to his institutional role. Like Rutledge, Stevens has written powerful opinions on issues of individual rights, the Establishment Clause, and the reach of executive power in wartime. Stevens has also, like Rutledge, been a frequent author of dissents and concurrences, choosing to express his divergences from the majority rather than to vote in silence. Within his chambers, Stevens has in many ways adopted his own clerkship experience in preference to current models. Unlike the practices of most of his colleagues, Stevens hires fewer clerks, writes his own first drafts, and shares certiorari decisionmaking with his clerks. The links between Stevens and Rutledge suggest that a Supreme Court clerkship of a single year may be a significant influence when a clerk becomes, a generation later, a Supreme Court Justice.

The Humanities and the Family at the University of Illinois-Chicago

The Institute for the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Chicago presents the conference "The Humanities and the Family," March 13-14, 2009, 750 South Halsted Street, Room 605 Student Center East, University of Illinois at Chicago. According to the announcement:
The conference will explore the contributions of the disciplines of the Humanities to debating and constructing ideas and representations of the family. Based on the premise that conceptions of the family are wide-ranging and continually transforming, the conference will ask what constitutes a family, examining this question from the perspective of history, literature, law, and ethics. Topics considered will include inheritance, marriage, work, religious and utopian communities, violence, children, the relation of the family to the community, the nation, and the state, and changing conceptions of genders and sexualities.
The keynote speakers are Daniel Boyarin, University of California, Berkeley, and Stephanie Coontz, The Evergreen State College. Other participants will include:

Toni Bowers, University of Pennsylvania
Michael Cobb, University of Toronto
Susan Glosser, Lewis & Clark College
Michael Grossberg, Indiana University Bloomington
Rachel Jean-Baptiste, University of Chicago
Ellen Lewin, University of Iowa
Jennifer Morgan, New York University
Lisa Norling, University of Minnesota
Susan Jennifer Pearson, Northwestern University
Renee Romano, Oberlin College
Mary Beth Rose, University of Illinois at Chicago
Peter Stearns, George Mason University
Steve Striffler, University of New Orleans
Joan Tronto, Graduate Center CUNY
Pamela Wojcik, University of Notre Dame

Hat tip: H-Law

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Aussie Jurist Asks, "Where Did the Legal History Go?"

The latest issue of the Australian Law Journal 83 (January 2009) includes the lament of Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG, "Is Legal History Now Ancient History?" I don't believe the journal is on-line, but here's an abstract:
Until 40 years ago legal history was a core subject of all Australian law schools and treated as essential for the preparation of a professional lawyer. Suddenly this changed. In only two or three of Australia's 31 law schools is the separate study of legal history now compulsory. A similar change has happened in the United States but not in Canada. Criticism of the way the discipline was formerly taught and its neglect of the Australian dimension are acknowledged. The author asks whether the change matters and recounts the arguments suggesting that it does not. He then explains why it does matter and especially in understanding of the fundamental features of constitutional and public law. He refers to recent cases and concludes that a revamped, new and shorter course of legal history should be restored in Australia. In an age of infotainment and collective ignorance about the past, Australian lawyers need to remember the aphorism that those who do not learn their history are bound to repeat its mistakes.
Hat tip.

Reviewed: Maveety on the Rehnquist Era and Hoffer on The Treason Trials of Aaron Burr

Queen's Court: Judicial Power in the Rehnquist Era by Nancy Maveety is reviewed by Terri Peretti, Department of Political Science, Santa Clara University in the Law and Politics Book Review. The author "examines policy leadership on the Rehnquist Court and offers a fascinating and nuanced assessment," Peretti writes.

Her account offers several interesting insights, including (1) the rise of a “supremely individualist conception of judicial power,” seen particularly in the increase in separate opinion writing and “multivocal judicial decision making;” (2) the dominance of “rule-of-thumb jurisprudence” that is “heavily dependent on singular judgment calls by individual justices in case by case adjudication;” (3) the key role of Justice O’Connor in developing and deeply embedding these complementary practices; and (4) the powerful and multiple legacies of these behavioral developments for constitutional doctrine, the Court’s institutional norms and practices, Court commentary, and decision making in the lower federal courts....

Maveety begins with a puzzle: despite being highly regarded as a successful chief Justice, Rehnquist was not a dominant voice or a policy leader during his tenure. Instead, the Court was “multivocal” with “many separate judicial voices raised in opinion to constitute Court decisions” (p.3). In fact, the Court was “staffed by nine separate sovereignties,” which “is why there was at once no Rehnquist Court and also, a distinctively Rehnquist-era Court chorus” (p.3). The “choir director,” Maveety contends, was O’Connor – “Queen Sandra” – rather than Rehnquist. Understanding these new behavioral patterns and their [*74] doctrinal and intellectual impacts sets the agenda for the rest of the book.

Continue reading here.

James H. Read, Professor of Political Science, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University takes up The Treason Trials of Aaron Burr by Peter Charles Hoffer. Read writes:

Aaron Burr was a central character in three fascinating political dramas of the early American republic: the 1800 presidential election, when an electoral college tie between Burr and Thomas Jefferson took 36 ballots to resolve; the fatal duel with Alexander Hamilton in 1804; and Burr’s high-profile treason trial of 1807, where Burr was suspected of plotting violently to sever the Kentucky region from the United States, or perhaps to lead an illegal invasion of Spanish territories, or perhaps something else altogether. No one knew at the time, and no one knows today, exactly what Aaron Burr intended when he arranged for a large gathering of men and boats on Blennerhassett Island in the Ohio River on December 9, 1806....

This book is about Burr’s trial (and those of his alleged co-conspirators). Its central protagonist is not Burr at all but John Marshall....Hoffer observes that most historians treat the Burr trial as a political drama, but maintains that the legal story is equally important (p.185).The major accomplishment of THE TREASON TRIALS OF AARON BURR is convincingly to argue that the Burr trial was an important moment in the history of American constitutional law....

To the ultimate question, “why does Burr matter?”, Hoffer replies that the Burr trials proved “that judges had the power to deny to the other branches ill-founded prosecutions of unpopular and even dangerous men. This is the most important precedent of the Burr treason trials, the most important story we can tell about law in the early republic, and one we have to remember” (p.188).
Read the rest here.

Huhn on The Roosevelt Court

Wilson Ray Huhn, University of Akron School of Law, has posted In Defense of the Roosevelt Court, which appeared in the Florida A&M University Law Review (2007). Here is the abstract:

The overriding purpose of the New Deal was to create opportunities for the common person to acquire a stake in society. The Roosevelt appointees to the Supreme Court were unwilling to allow either entrenched wealth or arbitrary governmental action to interfere with that objective. They remade the Constitution, but in so doing they returned the Constitution to its original purpose - the protection of personal liberty. The Roosevelt Court laid the foundation for a jurisprudence of human rights upon which the Warren Court and subsequent Supreme Courts have continued to build.

Two justices presently serving on the Supreme Court - Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas - oppose many of the principles established by the Roosevelt Court, and they wish to turn back the clock to the interpretation of Constitution as it was prior to 1937. The purpose of this article is to describe and defend the human rights revolution of the Roosevelt Court.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cotterrell on Eugen Ehrlich at the Edge of Empire

Ehrlich at the Edge of Empire: Centres and Peripheries in Legal Studies is a new paper by Roger Cotterrell, University of London, Queen Mary, School of Law. It appears in M. Hertogh ed, Living Law: Reconsidering Eugen Ehrlich (Oxford: Hart, 2008). Here's the abstract:
This paper discusses the legal theory of the Austrian jurist Eugen Ehrlich, the best-known of a number of European law professors who set out to establish sociology of law as a new science at the beginning of the twentieth century. Situating his work in the context of his personal circumstances and career, and also in relation to historical conditions in the closing years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the paper considers the reception of Ehrlich's scholarship in the English-speaking world, and the aims of his legal thought. His achievement as an influential pioneer in a new field, and as a thinker of great originality, is highlighted. But it is also argued here that a complex combination of intellectual and professional centrality and marginality in Ehrlich's position explains much about the uncertainties and ambiguities of his approach to law.

Also of possible interest: Assaf Likhovski presented a related paper at the 2004 Law and Society annual meeting: Law at the Margin: Eugen Ehrlich, Roscoe Pound and the Provincial Origins of Sociological Jurisprudence.

Tribe on 17th century insolvency law

John Paul Tribe, Kingston Law School (U.K.), has two pieces on seventeenth century insolvency, just posted on SSRN. The first is John Barkesdale's 1628 Bankruptcy Reading at Lincoln's Inn: The Transcription, Translation and Interpretation of a Discourse on 21 Jac. C.19. (The download for this paper unfortunately is currently not working.) Here's the abstract:
The volume of primary source material touching seventeenth century insolvency law and practice and adjunct commercial areas is not insubstantial. The material also includes bankruptcy documents. There are also documents extant on the education of practitioners in relation to the law of bankruptcy in the Inns of Court. As the practice of insolvency law is incontrovertibly linked to the attendant areas of trade, credit, and debt it is interesting to mull on the preparation that intending practitioners went through before practice and whilst in practice. In this regard we may consider the training of sergeants, barristers, attorneys, solicitors and so forth. The seventeenth century saw a particular burst of activity in this legal educational discourse. Handwritten, generally by students, the Readings provide an intriguing insight into the practical application of seventeenth century insolvency laws and allow a glimpse into the education of seventeenth century practitioners and their professional development in the field of insolvency law. The nineteen readings discussed in this article were delivered in Gray's Inn, Inner Temple, Lincoln's Inn and Middle Temple between 1601 and 1695. John Barkesdale's reading of 1628 is
transcribed and critically analysed.
The second posting consists of case summaries of cases from the early 1600s: Bacon in Debt: The Insolvency Judgments of Francis, Lord Verulam. It was published in Insolvency Law & Practice (2006). Here's the abstract:
Summarises insolvency cases heard before Sir Francis Bacon in the Court of Chancery between 1617 and 1621. Presents a biography of Francis Bacon. Considers the background to insolvency relief and the factors that partly influenced judicial thinking behind the cases.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Deadline February 6 for legal history fellowship at Harvard

The deadline is coming up for another great opportunity in legal history. Applications for the Raoul Berger-Mark DeWolfe Howe Legal History Fellowship at Harvard Law School are due February 6. Here are the details:

Raoul Berger-Mark DeWolfe Howe Legal History Fellowship

The Harvard Law School announces a visiting fellowship in legal history funded by a generous donation from the estate of the late Raoul Berger.

The School is seeking fellows who have a J.D. degree, who have completed the required coursework for their doctorate degree, or who have recently been awarded the doctorate degree. A JD is not required. We will also consider applicants who are beginning a teaching career in either law or history. The purpose of the fellowship is to enable the fellow to complete a major piece of writing in the field of legal history, broadly defined. There are no limitations as to geographical area or time period. Fellows are expected to spend the majority of their time on their own research. They are also asked to help to coordinate the Legal History Colloquium, which meets four or five times each semester. The Berger Fellow is invited to present their own work. Fellows will be required to be in residence at the Harvard Law School during the academic year (September through May).

Applicants for the fellowship for 2009-2010 should address a letter to the co-chairs of the Berger Fellowship Program, Professors Bruce Mann and Jed Shugerman, at the Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA 02318.

Applications should outline briefly the fellow's proposed project (no more than five typewritten pages) and should contain a curriculum vitae that gives the applicant's educational background, publications, works in progress, and other relevant experience, accompanied by official transcripts of all academic work done in college or at the graduate level. The applicant should arrange for two academic references to be sent to the co-chairs. Applications by e-mail are preferred (the transcripts may be sent by regular mail):

The deadline for applications is February 6, 2009, and announcement of the award will be made by March 6, 2009. More details are here.

Update: Deadline extended for post-doc at Minnesota

Breaking news: the deadline for applications for a post-doc in legal history at the University of Minnesota has just been extended to February 15. Details are here. This fellowship is part of Minnesota's vibrant new Program in Law and History.

Obama on FOIA: "In the face of doubt, openness prevails"

"In the face of doubt, openness prevails," states an Obama Administration memorandum on FOIA, marking a shift in secrecy policy that is being lauded by historians. AHA Today reports that the document calls upon agencies to proactively "use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their government." Importantly, the presumption is in favor of disclosure, rather than nondisclosure. "The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears."
This memorandum is part of a broader change in access to federal records, with President Barack Obama signing an executive order on presidential records that overturned
an order from the Bush administration (E.O. 13233) that raised significant barriers to access to those records. This executive order had gained particular attention during the presidential primaries, as members of the Clinton administration seemed to be invoking the order to limit access to records from Hillary Clinton’s office (See the AHA Today post, "Clinton Librarians Accused of Stonewalling Record Requests"). Under the new executive order signed on Wednesday, presidents could only limit access by invoking executive privilege. The order lays out a clear process for reviewing all such claims.
Overall, however, "the news of the week was a bit mixed, as historians and ethics groups lost a lawsuit to preserve records from outgoing vice president Richard Cheney." The fuller story, with links, is here.

Gordon-Reed among National Book Critics Circle finalists

Finalists have been announced for 2008 National Book Critics Circle Awards. They include legal historian Annette Gordon-Reed. Here are the finalists in Biography and Nonfiction. The full list is here.


Paula J. Giddings, Ida, A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching

Steve Coll, The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in an American Century

Patrick French, The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul

Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

Brenda Wineapple, White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson & Thomas Wentworth Higginson


Dexter Filkins, The Forever War

Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the Civil War

Jane Mayer, The Dark Side

Allan Lichtman, White Protestant Nation

George C. Herring, From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776

Hat tip to Ralph Luker.

Graham and Tribe on an early 19th century life in literature and law

Basil Montagu QC (1770-1851): A Portrait of an Early 19th Century Life in Literature and the Law has been posted on SSRN by David Graham and John Paul Tribe, both of Kingston Law School (U.K.). Here's the abstract:
In 1814 Basil Montagu, by now an extremely busy member of the Chancery bar took up residence at 25 Bedford Square in fashionable Bloomsbury. Together with his wife, large family and servants he continued to live at this address for the next 20 years or so. On Sundays Mrs Montagu often reigned over a salon that attracted prominent literary figures amongst whom were several long-standing friends of her husband. At the time of their marriage in 1808 Montagu had already been married twice before; his wife had been a widow for about six years and was bringing up her daughter who would one day as Mrs Proctor have her own salon frequented by a new generation of poets and authors. Montagu's chambers were at 10 New Square; his practice was mainly concerned with insolvency matters, serving as a Commissioner in Bankruptcy at the Guildhall. He was a prolific writer on commercial law but is best remembered, if at all, for his many books on bankruptcy and for a lengthy series of law reports. He also wrote numerous pamphlets on contemporary topics such as Catholic and Jewish emancipation. Additionally he published a book of essays one of which dealt with the general principles of law reform and a best selling philosophical anthology. If Bedford Square reflects Montagu's commitment to literature, then New Square represents his professional dedication; sometimes these two segments of his life came together; he acted as junior counsel for Shelley in the proceedings brought by the poet after his wife's death to obtain custody of their children; on at least one occasion Coleridge arrived at chambers to discuss Montagu's Francis Bacon project; urgent steps were taken by him and Bryan Waller Proctor, his step-son in law, to rescue Hazlitt from imprisonment for debt. In this article little attention is given to Montagu's legal career, his role as founder of the Legal & General Insurance Company, or to his work after 1836 as the first Accountant-General in Bankruptcy. Instead it concentrates on his literary activities and private life so often clouded by tragedy. It is suggested that when Montagu died at Boulogne in 1851 he was living there in exile fearful of arrest for debt at home resulting from involvement with the financial disaster of his principal publisher, William Pickering. His death does not end the story that must continue with the hunt, still in progress, for his voluminous papers, manuscripts and other documents together with reminiscences about him. Our research indicates that notwithstanding a belief that much of this material is lost this is by no means the case.

MacDonald on European Private Law and the Challenge of Plural Legal Subjectivities

European Private Law and the Challenge of Plural Legal Subjectivities by Roderick A. MacDonald, McGill University, has just been posted on SSRN. The essay appears in European Legacy (2004). Here's the abstract:
This paper argues that the approach to questions of authority, legitimacy, and personal identity characteristic of contemporary European law presents a paradox. The power of the legal project that emerged after the French Revolution lay in its deployment of the notion of abstract legal subjectivity to challenge claimed authority. Much is made of the public law dimensions of this revolutionary moment - the creation of political constitutions establishing national citizenship and human rights standards. But the transposition of abstract legal subjectivity into the private law through national social constitutions like Civil Codes has been far less successful. Abstract legal subjectivity in public law regimes necessarily privileges some personal identities over others in its construction of citizenship. These privileged identities of public law citizenship limit how legal subjects can express their identities in the private law. The paper proposes an alternative, pluralist, theorization of the diverse, iterative character of everyday human interaction that gives content to the idea of legal subjectivity in the private law. It seeks to reconcile a public law of abstract, unitary citizenship with a private law of plural legal subjectivities in a manner that advances the project of democratic constitutionalism.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A British historian takes on the U.S., Kazin takes aim at presidential histories, and more in the book reviews

"Americans have quaint delusions that they are anti-imperialist, though they created on their own continent the greatest empire in history," begins Max Hastings, in a review of America, Empire of Liberty: A New History by Cambridge University historian David Reynolds in the London Times. "America created an empire," Hastings writes, "mostly by war: against France, Spain, Britain, Mexico and above all the wretched 'Indians' that the white newcomers dispossessed." He concludes:

The author stands beside Simon Schama as a populariser of history whose work also represents the widest knowledge and highest scholarship. This is the best single-volume account of the world's greatest society for many years. Even those of us who think we know America well are reminded anew what an awesome place it is, even if its record is a trifle less noble than its citizens like to think.
Alan Marshall also applauds the book in The Telegraph, noting that the work is being serialized on the BBC. However, DD Guttenplan, writing for The Guardian, finds the book "unrealiable," and thinks that "Reynolds is just cloth-eared when it comes to American culture."

Michael Kazin
takes up THE SOUL OF A LEADER: Character, Conviction, and Ten Lessons in Political Greatness by Waller R. Newell and BAPTISM BY FIRE: Eight Presidents Who Took Office in Times of Crisis by Mark K. Updegrove in the Washington Post. "For most Americans," Kazin writes, "the history of the nation's politics means the lives of its presidents. Academic historians deplore that viewpoint and the hefty book sales that accompany it; to explain past presidents, scholars insist, one must appreciate the context in which they campaigned and governed." Still, "a fascination with the 43 individuals who have held the big job is hardly naive....Presidential historians like Robert Dallek and William E. Leuchtenburg, who weave together the personal and the political, the man and his era, can illuminate the workings of power at the highest level, as well as the severe limits of what that power can accomplish." This is not the case, Kazin concludes, with the books featured in this weekend's review, which Kazin places among the category of unsatisfying presidential histories.

Unfortunately, any thriving market generates its share of shoddy goods. Far too many presidential histories fail in one of two familiar ways, both reminiscent of undergraduate term papers dashed off the night before a due date. Their authors either indulge in large but banal ideas about leadership that bound heedlessly across the centuries, or they rehash biographical details familiar to anyone who's read a history textbook or seen the documentaries that certain cable channels run with the frequency of ads for body-building equipment.
Newell's book "illustrates the first kind of failure," while Updegrove's "is unsullied by big ideas of any kind."

Lincoln books are a feature in the run-up to Lincoln's bicentennial February 12. The Boston Globe has received 60 new Lincoln books! Today the paper takes up A. LINCOLN: A Biography by Ronald C. White Jr.; LINCOLN: The Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan; and MRS. LINCOLN: A Life by Catherine Clinton.

A World of Trouble: The White House and the Middle East - From the Cold War to the War on Terror by Patrick Tyler gets a brief note in the San Francisco Chronicle. INSIDE THE STALIN ARCHIVES: Discovering the New Russia by Jonathan Brent is reviewed in the New York Times, as is THE INVENTION OF AIR: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America by Steven Johnson. Reviewed in the Boston Globe: SAMUEL ADAMS A Life, by Ira Stoll.

Idaho Legal History

The work of the Idaho Legal History Society is featured in an Associated Press article by Rebecca Boone, dateline Boise. The article, as published on-line by the (Olympia, Washington) Olympian, commences:
Decades of Idaho's legal history sits in law libraries across the state, encapsulated in the case law and code books. But the interesting stuff - the living, breathing side of the law - was disappearing as the state's most influential lawyers and judges grew old and died, says Boise attorney Deb Kristensen, president of the Idaho Legal History Society.

Inspired by the oral history projects of the 9th Judicial Circuit History Society and StoryCorps, Kristensen and other members of the Idaho Legal History Society decided to take depositions of their own. The 9th Judicial Circuit History Society's oral history project collects interviews with judges throughout the circuit, and StoryCorps is a national nonprofit project that records the stories of average Americans.

They compiled a list of 50 candidates and began recording interviews in 2007, as well as gathering oral histories taken by other individuals and groups in earlier years. Court reporters around the state pitched in, transcribing the oral histories, and workers at the state Historical Society Library took on the painstaking work of indexing, cataloging and archiving the interviews.

The story continues here.
"Idaho Meanderings," a website on (among other things) one of the more famous chapters in Idaho history, the "Trial of the Century" of Big Bill Haywood for the assassination of Governor Frank Steunenberg (pictured at right), maintained by Steunenberg's great grandson, John T. Richards, Jr. is here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Blake and Hacker on The Hidden Legal Axiom at Work in Brown v. Board of Education

The Neutrality Principle: The Hidden Yet Powerful Legal Axiom at Work in Brown Versus Board of Education by William Blake, University of Texas at Austin, and Hans Hacker, Arkansas State University, Department of Political Science, appeared in Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy (2006). Here's the abstract (only the abstract is posted on SSRN):
Among conservatives and liberals alike, it is currently en vogue to claim that the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education exemplifies the "right decision for the wrong reasons." Critics claim that the Court settled upon the correct outcome (ending application of the separate but equal doctrine in primary and secondary public education), but did so in an unprincipled manner, failing to couch the decision in any accepted legal standard beyond the preferences of those on the Court for an integrated society. This paper contests the idea that the Brown decision was unprincipled. We argue that the Court was moved by an old and evolving principle in American jurisprudence, one that had survived court eras and changes in court personnel, as well as economic and social upheavals since the founding. The principle of government neutrality, although historically tied to economic rights, provided the jurisprudential grounding for early civil rights decisions, and for developments in common understandings of due process and equal protection across the 20th century. Furthermore, regardless of its economic origins, the concept requiring governmental policies to be neutral as to party, both facially and in application, still has currency in the domain of civil rights. In exploring the connections between economic and civil rights doctrines, we find that evolving and organic definitions of due process and equal protection can provide a rubric under which to organize developments in associative rights doctrine in American jurisprudence.

Fenster on Thurman Arnold's Criminal Law Scholarship

Mark Fenster, University of Florida College of Law, has posted The Dramas of Criminal Law: Chapter [?] of The Symbols of Governance: Thurman Arnold and Post-Realist Legal Theory. Here is Professor Fenster’s abstract:
This essay is a chapter of a book-in-progress on the legal and cultural theory of the legal realist Thurman Arnold, who was prominent as a Yale law professor from 1932 until he joined the Justice Department as head of its antitrust division in 1938. Arnold's work focused on the symbolic role of law in governance, both as a means by which the state gains legitimacy and as a means by which those who oppose a political majority attempt to frame their opposition. As public law that defines and enforces substantive prohibitions, criminal law and procedure allowed Arnold to develop some of his most important ideas regarding the law, politics, and the state. And although it is doctrinally, procedurally, and administratively complex, criminal law and the criminal justice system are the areas of law to which the public and press pay the greatest attention. As a result, they served as an especially good means for Arnold to think through the relationships between law, the state, and popular sentiment. Writing in the midst of Prohibition, Arnold examined how the public sought to understand and affect criminal justice through political and moral debate. Arnold was not uninterested in the doctrinal and administrative complexity of criminal law and procedure-his first major law review article, written during his initial year-long visit to Yale, waded into the morass that was (and remains) of the law of criminal attempt. But he sought to understand why the law and the legal system appeared convoluted, how the public responded to the state's legal opacity, and how legal and political institutions sought to maintain their legitimacy while balancing the need for protecting individual rights, administering an overburdened criminal justice system, and enforcing-or appearing to enforce-the law.
Image credit.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cold War History Seminar at NYU

The Center for the United States and the Cold War at New York University's Tamiment Library announces its Spring 2009 Program Schedule. All seminars take place from 5:30 - 7:00pm (with reception to follow) at the Tamiment Library, Bobst Library 10th Floor, 70 Washington Square South (between Greene and LaGuardia). To RSVP to a seminar or for more information contact

January 29 Andrea Friedman, Washington University, “Bringing Anti-Colonialism Home: Gendering Puerto Rican Nationalism in the Early Cold War”

February 5 Matthew Connelly, Columbia University, “Unnatural Selection: Population Control and the Struggle to Remake Humanity”

February 12 Daniel J. Walkowitz , New York University, “The Transaltlantic Cold War and the Second Folk Revival”

February 19 Holger Nehring, Ohio State University/ University of Sheffield, UK “The Last Battle of the Cold War: Peace Movements and German Politics in the 1980s”

March 5 Victoria Phillips Geduld, Columbia University, “The Strange Commodity of Cultural Exchange: Martha Graham's State Department Tour of 1955-1956”

March 12 Steven Lee, Stanford University, “From Internationalism to Pluralism: The New York Intellectuals Respond to Soviet Anti-Semitism”

March 26 Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, University of Edinburgh, “The Cold War and the Nomenclature of the American Left”

April 16 Erica Sheen, University of York, “Maxwell Anderson: A Cold War Life”

April 23 Christopher Capozzola, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Soldiers and Citizens on America's Cold War Military Bases"

April 30 Monica Kim, University of Michigan, “Humanity Interrogated: The U.S. Military and the Korean Prisoner of War”

Harris on the First Corporations

Ron Harris, Tel Aviv University, Buchmann Faculty of Law, has posted Law, Finance and the First Corporations, which is forthcoming in Global Perspectives on the Rule of Law, ed. James J. Heckman, Robert L. Nelson, L. Cabatingan (Abingdon: Routledge-Cavendish, 2009). Here is the abstract:
The English East India Company (EIC) and the Dutch East India Company (VOC) were incorporated by State charters two years apart, in 1600 and 1602 respectively. They were involved in similar business activities. They were both organized as joint stock corporations, with huge capital and hundreds of shareholders. The formation of the companies was situated in a crucial junction in the history of business organizations and stock markets. Yet, while the formation of the VOC led to the appearance of a secondary market in shares in the Dutch Republic, in England a share market emerged only a century after the organization of the EIC.

The present article shall focus on a main organizational challenge faced by the two companies, the facilitation of long-term impersonal cooperation between active entrepreneurs and passive investors. It will study the manners by which legal and political environmental factors were translated into the detailed financial and governance structure of each of the two companies. It will explain the distinct English and Dutch paths to the creation of share markets through these environmental and organizational differences.

My approach and case study will be encountered with three influential, theoretically oriented, approaches to the relationship between law and institutions and the development of the stock market. The approaches are those of Schleifer and his collaborators that emphasize the effect of legal origins on investor protection, of North and Weingast that view the ability of the State to convey credible commitments as a key to the development of stock markets and of Rajan and Zingales that focus on market infrastructure and on the power of social and interest groups. The purpose of this encounter is twofold; first, to enrich our understanding of the reasons for the historical divergence between the two countries; and second, to analyze these leading theories in light of the empirical findings of our pivotal case study.
Image Credit.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

McMillen at the Miller Center

[I've previously posted about Professor McMillen's presentation to the Colloquia Series on Politics and History at the University of Virginia's Miller Center for Public Affairs, but here's a reminder.]

On Friday, January 23, Professor Christian McMillen, Department of History, University of Virginia, will be discussing two papers. First, he will talk about the Historians' Brief in Carcieri v Kempthorne, an Indian law case from the Supreme Court's current term which considers whether the Narrangansett Tribe may receive benefits under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, if the Tribe was not federally recognized on the date of enactment, and whether the Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act foreclosed the Tribe's right to exercise sovereignty over land in the state. Next, McMillen will discuss "Proof, Evidence and History in Indigenous Land Claims," a paper blending history with the law in the early years of Indian claims.

Professor McMillen is Assistant Professor of Native American Studies and the U.S. West in the Corcoran Department of History at U.Va. He received his BA in history from Earlham College, his MA in history from the University of Montana, and his PhD in history from Yale University. McMillen's book, Making Indian Law: The Hualapai Land Case and the Birth of Ethnohistory (Yale University Press, 2007) won the 2008 William Nelson Cromwell Book Award, the 2008 John Phillip Reid Book Award, and the 2008 Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Prize, and garnered a nomination for the Bancroft Prize. The book examines a watershed Indian property rights case that continues to impact the outcome of indigenous land claim cases throughout the world.

Update: Professor McMillen's paper, “Evidence, Exclusive Occupancy, and History in Indian Land Claims," is available here. The presentation will be webcast live here. Questions may be submitted during the webcast between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. EST on January 23 to

Archived webcasts of earlier presentations are here.

J. Edgar Hoover: Conservative Power in the Liberal Age

[This lecture, originally scheduled for last October, will now take place at the Miller Center on Friday, February 6, at 12:30, so I'm moving up (and editing) the original post.]

Beverly Gage, Department of History, Yale University, will present Rethinking J. Edgar Hoover: Conservative Power in the Liberal Age at the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia on [February 6] starting at 12:30. It is a session in the Miller Center's Colloquia Series on Politics and History. A list of the spring's sessions and more about the colloquium are here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tiffert on Chinese Constitutionalism in the 1950s

Glenn D. Tiffert, University of California, Berkeley, has posted Epistrophy: Chinese Constitutionalism and the 1950s, a book chapter forthcoming in Building Constitutionalism in China, ed. Stephanie Balme and Michael Dowdle (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). Here’s the abstract:
Current debates in Chinese constitutionalism centering on issues such as judicial independence, the justiciability of constitutional rights, and the relationships between Party and state, political pluralism and dictatorship, and liberal conceptions of the rule of law versus more traditional Chinese articulations of the asymmetric ethical relationship between ruler and ruled are neither novel nor unfamiliar in the PRC.

This paper explores the drafting of the 1954 PRC Constitution, upon which China's current 1982 Constitution was based, with the aim of restoring historical context to contemporary issues in Chinese constitutional law and connecting them to longitudinal trends and problematics in Chinese social and political development.

It draws on archival and period sources seldom accessed outside of China, and recent Chinese literature on the subject.
Image credit.

Conference on Presidential Leadership and Civil Rights

As part of its Founders' Day Celebration, the Washington College of Law at American University in Washington, D.C., announces the conference The Role of Presidential Leadership in Advancing Civil Rights. According to the announcement,
This program . . . will bring together leading historians, political scientists, and law professors for an interdisciplinary conversation about the role of presidents in advancing the civil rights agenda during the 20th century. Presenters will include award‐winning scholars who have written books on presidents from Roosevelt to Bush II.

The conference's organizers and moderators are Lynda Dodd and Robert L. Tsai. Speakers include:

Michael J. Gerhardt, University of North Carolina
Gregg Ivers, American University
Joseph Lowndes, University of Oregon
Kevin J. McMahon, Trinity College
Steven Teles, Johns Hopkins University
Jeffrey Tulis, University of Texas
Keith E. Whittington, Princeton University

There is no charge for registration, but registration is required and can be completed here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Then & now: D.C. is the "window through which the world looks into our house"

Washington D.C. is "the window through which the world looks into our house," wrote the Justice Department in the Brief of the United States as Amicus Curiae in Brown v. Board of Education (filed in 1952). The context was the Cold War, and the concern was that segregation in the nation's capital harmed the U.S. image around the world. One of the cases argued with Brown, Bolling v. Sharpe, concerned racial segregation in D.C. schools.

"Foreign officials and visitors naturally judge this country and our people by their experiences and observations in our nation's capital," the brief continued, "and the treatment of colored persons here is taken as a measure of our attitude toward minorities generally." The capital city "should be a true symbol of American freedom and democracy," at home and abroad, President Truman insisted. But a President's Committee on Civil Rights report had concluded that conditions in the city were "a graphic illustration of a failure of democracy."

The brief continues here. The fuller story is here and here.
The District of Columbia remains a segregated city, although the issue before the Court, government enforced racial segregation in public schools, was addressed in Brown, to great international fanfare. But the city is a showcase today of a different moment in this history of race and American democracy.

On that theme, since I am on the road this week, I hope you will excuse a reprise of an election post, Obama and the Image of America:

"Just wanted to share my joy across the Atlantic," wrote a friend from Paris this morning, as the world celebrated Barack Obama’s victory.

"It would be hard to overstate how fervently vast stretches of the globe wanted the election to turn out as it did to repudiate the Bush administration and its policies," writes Ethan Bronner for the New York Times. But this is not the only reason that Obama’s election is particularly important to the world.

For decades, American race relations have been a central feature of the way peoples of other nations regarded the United States. Discrimination against peoples of color led other nations to argue that the United States must correct its own imperfections before criticizing human rights violations by others. How could the United States argue that its system of government was a model for the world when within its own borders American citizens were segregated and disenfranchised?

In 1944 Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal argued that race discrimination was especially problematic in the United States because it was at odds with the principles of American democracy. During World War II, American racism "acquired tremendous international implication," he suggested. "America for its international prestige, power and future security needs to demonstrate to the world that American Negroes can be satisfactorily integrated into its democracy."

During the Cold War years, the international impact of American race relations escalated. Lynching, disenfranchisement and segregation harmed U.S. international prestige. This gave the Soviet Union an effective propaganda tool. As a columnist in Ceylon wrote in 1948: "the colour bar is the greatest propaganda gift any country could give the Kremlin in its persistent bid for the affections of the coloured races of the world."

"We cannot escape the fact that our civil rights record has been an issue in world politics," President Harry Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights wrote in 1947. American diplomats warned of the devastating impact of racism on U.S. prestige around the world, and American leaders came to understand that in order to lead the world the nation needed to live up to its principles. Spinning the story of race in America was not enough. Instead some level of social change was needed to turn around the impact of racism on the nation’s standing in the world. In this context, the U.S. Justice Department drew upon letter from Secretary of State Dean Acheson in its brief in Brown v. Board of Education (filed in 1952). Acheson noted that "the damage to our foreign relations attributable to [race discrimination] has become progressively greater....The view is pressed more and more vocally that the United States is hypocritical in claiming to be the champion of democracy while permitting practices of racial discrimination here in this country." (This argument is developed much more fully here, here, here and here.)

One lesson of the Cold War years is that living up to the nation’s principles, including protecting individual rights, strengthens the nation around the world. It also enables the United States to be a more forceful voice for human rights. But what Myrdal and others called at the time "the Negro problem" was the central problem for the American international image for many years. The status of African Americans was the Achilles heel as the nation became a world leader. For that reason, an African American President speaks directly to the generations of criticism that a nation that enslaved and then disenfranchised and brutalized its own citizens undermined its ability to be a moral leader of the world.
"I’m so proud of America!" wrote my friend from Paris. Discrimination endures, of course, in spite of the symbolism of Obama’s victory. But Obama now embodies the image of America. Because of this, a generations-long narrative has, for a moment at least, been put aside.