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Program in Race, Law & History

Welcome to the Program in Race, Law & History. We are an interdisciplinary program dedicated to research and teaching at the intersection of these three lines of intellectual inquiry. Through new scholarship, the training of students in law and history, and collaborations with colleagues and institutions at Michigan and beyond, the Program provides a unique historical perspective on the ongoing salience of race in our world. Our work is grounded in scholarship that has established race as at the core of interpreting the history of the Americas. Race here is a set of ideas that rely upon understandings of religion, culture, labor, biology, and politics, and have both rationalized profound inequality and galvanized movements for social justice. Scholars have charted the connections between legal culture and slavery and its abolition, the emergence of democratic states, imperialism, social welfare policy, and movements for civil and human rights. Our work is linked to the broad trends in social and cultural history, exploring how race and law have come together to shape ideas about home, family, marriage, gender, and sexuality.

New Scholarship
The interests of the core faculty reflect many of the defining concerns of the Program in Race, Law & History. We are historians of race in the United States and Latin America, of law and the transformation of the state, of citizenship and claims-making, and of Atlantic world slavery.

Training Emerging Scholars
By offering foundational courses in American Legal History and Legislation, specialized seminars in the history of slavery and a course on the boundaries of citizenship, as well as an intensive faculty-student Legal History Workshop, the Program permits students to develop their interests and expertise in the field. Many of our students take the insights from the Program in Race, Law & History into the world of legal practice. In areas from civil rights litigation, immigration law, and criminal defense to judicial clerkship, our students draw upon their work with the Program to better analyze present-day dynamics of race in historical terms. Some continue their studies in M.A. and Ph.D. programs that fully explore the interdisciplinary dimensions of the Program in Race, Law & History. Still others will extend their work with the Program into academic careers, writing and teaching in colleges, law schools, and universities.

Our work at Michigan Law assumes national and international scope through our collaborations. This vision was reflected in our inaugural April 2011 conference, "'We Must First Take Account': A Conference on Race, Law, and History in the Americas," and in subsequent collaborations to bring to campus scholars including James Forman, Jr., and Annette Gordon-Reed. We have co-sponsored a roundtable in Paris, and  helped to organize a conference in Brazil. Our partners include the American Society for Legal History and the Legal History Consortium (comprised of Michigan Law and the law schools of the University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, and University of Pennsylvania.) Here, new scholarship, emerging scholars, and the building of collaborative networks come together and exemplify our model.

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