This collaborative research project will generate new scholarship that illuminates the history of sexual violence, women, and slavery in the United States through a detailed exploration of the case, The State of Missouri v. Celia, A Slave. In Missouri in 1855, an enslaved woman named Celia was tried, convicted, and ultimately executed for murdering her owner, Robert Newsom, a murder she confessed to committing in an effort to end what had been five years of sexual abuse. Celia's trial included remarkable (though unsuccessful) arguments about the rights of enslaved women to self-defense against sexual assault. The reaction to these arguments would shape the legal treatment of the rape of slaves in the years leading up to the Civil War, facilitate the systematic sexual exploitation of enslaved women and the refusal to recognize that exploitation as "rape," and leave a challenging legacy of racism and sexual violence to the present day in the United States. The case was brought to light by historian Melton McLaurin's book Celia, A Slave (University of Georgia Press, 1991), a text that is frequently assigned in courses in the fields of history, women's studies, literature, African-American studies, American studies, and law. McLaurin published his book on the cusp of an unprecedented wave of scholarship that newly interpreted women and slavery, of race, gender, and sexual violence, of slavery and memory, and of slavery and the law. The Celia Project brings together social, cultural, and legal historians with literary scholars to explore how we might collectively produce and present new analyses of Celia and the multiple implications of the case. Directed by Professor Martha S. Jones and Hannah Rosen, Association Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG.)
The Michigan Journal of Race & Law sponsors a Critical Race Theory (CRT) Reading Group that chooses, reads, and discusses articles concerning the treatment of race in legal discourse. A number of years ago, students formed the Minority Scholarship Reading Group to fill a perceived gap in the Law School curriculum. Since that time, this reading group has expanded into both the Michigan Journal of Race & Law and the CRT Reading Group. Most readings and discussions deal with contemporary issues stemming from the intersection of race and law. For example, the CRT Reading Group has recently read and discussed articles voicing a critical perspective on issues such as affirmative action, environmental racism, and critical race theory generally. Reading Group members are actively involved in picking topics and readings for each session. The CRT Reading Group is an invaluable component of legal and social education. All students and community members are invited and encouraged to join.
The Interdisciplinary Reading Group on Empire, Colonialism, and Law pulls students from approximately 15 departments and programs at the University of Michigan to interrogate the intersections between the law and the structures of exclusion, extraction, violence, and control typical of colonialism and empire. The wide range of academic disciplines, geographic and temporal fields, and research interests and methodologies represented in the group are given a productive focus via a shared commitment to a careful dissection of the structures and dynamics of colonial and imperial legal systems, and the effects of a colonial and imperial past in structuring "non-colonial" legal institutions. The diversity of disciplinary and analytical methodology enhances each member's approach to his/her dissertation source materials and theoretical structures, class work, and academic/professional activism. At our organizational meeting in October the group decided to hold reading sessions on the following topics: transnational legal activism, sovereignty, human rights, international public law, law and social transformations, critical race theory, citizenship law, international financial and corporate law, transnational corruption, and cultural critiques of law and empire. Professor Rebecca J. Scott is among the faculty sponsors of the reading group, which is funded by the Rackham Graduate School.
The Legal History Consortium was organized to advance the work of early career scholars, including assistant professors and J.D. and Ph.D. students. Through an annual conference, the Consortium generates exchange and debate through dialogues between emerging scholars and senior legal historians. The Consortium includes Michigan Law School, the University of Illinois Law School, the University of Minnesota Law School, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, in collaboration with the American Society for Legal History. The Consortium's first conference, "Ab Initio: Law in Early America," was hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Law School in June 2010. The 2011 conference, "'We Must First Take Account': A Conference on Race, Law, and History in the Americas," was held at Michigan Law School on April 1-2.
The Law in Slavery and Freedom Project
The American Society for Legal History is dedicated to fostering scholarship, teaching, and study concerning the law and institutions of all legal systems, both Anglo-American and those that do not operate in the Anglo-American tradition. Founded in 1956, the Society sponsors the Law and History Review and Studies in Legal History, an annual conference, and H-Law, on online discussion network.
is a curricular and research initiative that has been developed in collaboration with The Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, France; the University of Cologne, Germany; the University of Campinas, Brazil; the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada; the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal; and the Centro Juan Marinello, Havana, Cuba. Students from these institutions have participated in seminars taught by faculty from all sites and continue to exchange ideas through online discussions of readings on the topic of law and slavery in the Atlantic world. The faculty and graduate student collaborators are doing research on slavery, law, and emancipation in regions from the U.S. South to the Caribbean, France, Peru, West Africa, and Brazil.