Friday, May 1, 2015

Tugging on Loose Ends

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to blog here at Legal History Blog. My thanks to Dan, Karen, and Tomiko for the invitation.

The occasion of the invitation is the publication of my book, Forging Rivals: Race, Class, Law, and the Collapse of Postwar Liberalism. It’s a satisfying experience to complete a book, but it naturally leaves loose ends: fascinating peripheral characters, not-quite relevant archival materials, adjacent subject matters stashed away for later use. Over the next couple of weeks, I’d like to use this blog to explore (or at least highlight) some of those loose ends. The book chronicles the interaction of labor law and fair employment practice law in the thirty years following World War II as seen through the eyes of the lawyers and policy-makers in the San Francisco Bay Area. It then argues that the nature of this interaction tells us something about the strengths and weakness of postwar liberalism. Accordingly, the loose ends I’d like to tug on relate to these subjects: the legal and political history the labor and civil rights movements, California history, and postwar liberalism.

There will be a couple of short biographical sketches of lawyers and civil rights activists who deserve further attention. I will also discuss some of the civil rights conflicts other than fair employment practices that occurred in San Francisco in the 1950s and 1960s: fair housing, and redevelopment, in particular. I’ll suggest some (very) preliminary thoughts about the relationship among these various areas of postwar public policy and some of the contradictions within postwar liberalism that sit at the heart of Forging Rivals’ narrative. Finally, I’ll talk about some of the sources I’ve used and the challenges of incorporating compelling narratives into the writing of legal history.

By their very nature, these explorations are preliminary, so I’m very much looking forward to readers’ reactions and their tolerance for the half-baked ideas of a neophyte blogger.