Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Brophy Prize to VanderVelde

 [We share the following announcement from the American Journal of Legal History.]

Winner of the AJLH Alfred L. Brophy Prize

The winner of the Alfred L. Brophy Prize is Lea VanderVelde’s article entitled “The Anti-Republican Origins of the At-Will Doctrine.” A description from the prize committee reads:

Lea VanderVelde’s “The Anti-Republican Origins of the At-Will Doctrine” tells the fascinating story of the origins of the infamous employment at-will doctrine. VanderVelde persuasively argues that the doctrine emerged out of a power struggle between treatise authors in the 1870s-80s. A railroad lawyer’s vision of employer dominance triumphed over the Radical Republican model of workers’ rights, and was then embraced by an oddly influential 1884 Tennessee Supreme Court decision. With an appealing curiosity about doctrinal origins and a sophisticated appreciation of the external influences on law, the article reveals how the nineteenth-century politics of race and railroads produced an employment regime that still remains perplexing and powerful in American contract law. 

An honorable mention was awarded to Ross Dardani for his piece on “Citizenship in Empire: The Legal History of U.S. Citizenship in American Samoa, 1899-1960.” The recommendation from the prize committee explains:

This powerful article explores the legal history of proposed citizenship legislation for American Samoa from 1899 to 1960, illuminating the changing meanings of citizenship for a people resisting American imperialism. American Samoa remains the only U.S. unincorporated territory to which citizenship has not been extended.

Both Lea VanderVelde and Ross Dardani’s article will appear as open access on the American Journal of Legal History website for a short time. 

The Alfred L. Brophy Prize is awarded each year to an article in the American Journal of Legal History that breaks new ground and adds new insights to the study of United States legal history. Professor Al Brophy, formerly Paul and Charlene Jones Chair in Law University of Alabama School of Law, was the driving force in the successful relaunch of the AJLH in 2016 together with Professor Stefan Vogenauer. His vision, wisdom, and energy were crucial in this process. Many of our authors are indebted to Professor Brophy for his readiness to help, his warmth, and generosity. Professor Brophy’s work covers law during the eras of slavery and Jim Crow as well as the contemporary movement to address these past injustices. His most recent book is University, Court, and Slave: Proslavery Thoughts in Southern Colleges and Courts and the Coming of Civil War (2016) is an expansive study of proslavery thought in the southern academy; it continues to be a leading text in the field of American legal history. He stepped down as editor in 2018, due to ill health, and Professor Felice Batlan replaced him in 2019. The Alfred L. Brophy Prize Committee members were Professors Mary Bilder, Laura Kalman and Mitra Sharafi.

--posted by Mitra Sharafi