Doing Civil Rights: African Americans and Law, 1865-1970


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project seeks to describe and analyze African Americans’ participation in law at the local level from the civil war to the beginnings of the modern civil rights movement. It combines legal and historical perspectives to trace out the legal culture of ordinary African Americans and to chart the meaning and practice of a central concept in US history: civil rights. It argues that this 100-year period witnessed the birth and maturation of a black legal culture that was grounded in common experience, remarkably accepted within its limited ambit, and intricately connected to white legal culture and institutions. Its evidence comes from a variety of cultural and legal documents, including a purposive interval sample of more than 6,200 trial court cases drawn from 18 counties.