Monday, November 11, 2013

Murphy Award to Hidetaka Hirota and Laura Weinrib

Among the prizes awarded at the annual meeting of the ASLH was the Paul Murphy Award, which "support[s] the completion of a book on the history of civil liberties that addresses any topic or any time in American history." This is the second and final year in which the award will be given.  (The first Murphy award went to Sam Lebovic for Beyond the First Amendment: The Problem of Press Freedom in the American Century.)

About the award:
The award honors Paul L. Murphy (1923-1997), who spent much of his career at the University of Minnesota where he rose to the rank of Regent's Professor of History and American Studies. At the time of his death, he was in the second year of his term as president of the ASLH. During his tenure at Minnesota he became one of the nation's leading constitutional historians and a mentor to generations of undergraduate and graduate students. Among his most important books were: The Meaning of Freedom of Speech: First Amendment Freedoms from Wilson to FDR (1972); World War I and the Origin of Civil Liberties in the United States (1979); and Historic Background of the Bill of Rights, Vol. 1 (1990). In addition, civil liberties played a fundamental role in the argument he developed in what was likely his most influential book, The Constitution in Crisis Times 1918-1969 (The New American Nation Series, 1972). Murphy's commitment to civil liberties and his passion for the subject was evident in his deeds as well as his words. He was an ardent and committed member of the American Civil Liberties Union throughout his life. For additional information on Murphy please see the tribute to him in the Law and History Review, 16 (Spring 1998), ix-xi. 
This year the prize was awarded to two recipients: Hidetaka Hirota and Laura Weinrib. Hirota recently received his Ph.D. from Boston College and currently has a Society of Fellows in the Humanities post-doc position at Columbia University. Weinrib is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School.   The award citations are as follows:

Hidetaka Hirota (credit)
In Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States and the Origins of American Immigration Policy, Hidetaka Hirota uncovers a history of the violation of civil liberties in American immigration policy in the nineteenth century. He locates the roots of U.S. immigration restriction in nativism and economics of nineteenth century New York and Massachusetts. These states prohibited the landing of foreigners who were poor.  Driven by anti-Irish sentiment, Massachusetts went beyond exclusion, and deported indigents. Although these policies applied to foreigners, the state also deported some U.S. citizens of Irish descent.  Anti-Irish deportation policies in the northeast, he argues, helped lay the foundation for later restrictions on Chinese immigration. Hirota examines this history through extensive and ambitious archival research using the archives of asylums and almshouses in the US and immigration papers in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland and other archives  This is a transnational history, following paupers deported first by American states, and then by Britain, only to find themselves threatened again with deportation from Ireland. His beautifully written narrative tells the stories of individual American citizens wrongfully deported because of poverty or disability. This compelling and ambitious work sheds new light on the meanings of citizenship and the nature of rights in nineteenth century America.

Laura Weinrib (credit)
Laura Weinrib’s book project, The Taming of Free Speech, promises to enrich and complicate our understanding of the contested meaning of free speech after World War I through the 1930s. Weinrib reveals how a freedom originally rooted in a commitment to protecting labor radicalism and worker agitation became a value-neutral shield against government infringement of individual rights.  Paying particular attention to the early records of the American Civil Liberties Union and its predecessors, Weinrib uncovers conflicts, compromises, and unexpected convergences between state-centered progressive reformers and conservative legalists who contested the meaning of free speech in the 1920s and 1930s. Weinrib foregrounds the role of New Deal federal labor policy in divorcing the civil liberties agenda from redistributive goals and recasting free speech as a right enforceable in court and accessible to proponents of all political persuasions. Weinrib’s insightful and deeply researched study promises to be a brilliant contribution to the history of civil liberties. 
Mary L. Dudziak, Chair, Emory University
Robert Kaczorowski, Fordham University
Serena Mayeri, University of Pennsylvania
David Rabban, University of Texas, Austin

Congratulations to Hidetaka Hirota and Laura Weinrib!