Friday, December 13, 2013

Legal History Scholarship at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History Annual Meeting

Among the most interesting experiences I had in working on Defining the Struggle were invitations to attend meetings of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), an important forum for exchange of ideas about African American history, civil rights history, and the history of race and the law. ASALH held its 98th annual convention in October of this year in Jacksonville, Florida. I am always honored to be invited, as I was this year to present from my book. Also on my panel was Pippa Holloway, presenting from her newly released book from Oxford University Press on the history of felon disfranchisement. R. Volney Riser’s paper on a failed attempt at test case collaboration between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington’s lawyer, Wilford Smith, was ably read by graduate student Joshua Crutchfield. Dr. Gregory Mixon, a scholar of progressive era African American history, gave insightful commentary.

Another terrific panel I attended featured law professors Steven Hobbs, Wendy Greene, and Deleso Alford. At another fascinating panel, Bob Cottrol, author of The Long, Lingering Shadow: Slavery, Race, and Law in the American Hemisphere (2013) (recently highlighted at the ASLH conference) chaired, while Stephen Middleton presented a revisionist history of the one-drop rule, arguing that the law defining racial classifications was more entrenched at the trial court level, at a much earlier date, that scholars focused on appellate case law have previously supposed. Erica Cooper presented a paper rich in primary sources entitled “Defining Whiteness: The Rhetoric of Race in the Twentieth Century.” All of these papers seemed important for legal historians to note. Another important session undertook a retrospective of August Meier’s work, as I will discuss further tomorrow . . .