Monday, October 20, 2014

Turner, "Rights and the Ambiguities of Law: Infanticide in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. South"

The September 2014 issue of the Journal of the Civil War Era includes an article of interest: "Rights and the Ambiguities of Law: Infanticide in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. South," by Felicity Turner (Armstrong State University). Here's a summary from the author of the article's primary contribution:
Building on recent scholarship in gender history and African-American history, “Rights and the Ambiguities of Law” argues for a rethinking of the utility of narratives about the inexorable march toward expanded rights in U.S. history and memory.  Turner suggests that constitutional scholars and legal historians have traditionally emphasized the valuable expansion of civil and political rights to African Americans inaugurated at the federal level during Reconstruction.  The federal legislation and constitutional amendments prompted change at the state level, primarily in the South, which—in turn—prompted legal change at the local level, the consequences of which have been largely unexamined.  Turner's argument combines the traditional emphases of legal and political history with the more recent scholarship from historians of women and African-Americans.  Drawing from these combined strands of scholarship, Turner demonstrates the limitations inherent in narratives focusing primarily on the politico-legal changes that occurred at both the federal and state level during Reconstruction.  Using infanticide cases from antebellum and Reconstruction North Carolina to examine the operation of the legal process within local communities, "Rights and the Ambiguities of the Law" illuminates the complexities and ambiguities of legal change over time. 
A brief excerpt is available here, at Project Muse. Full content is limited to subscribers.