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Scott, Rebecca J.

Charles Gibson Distinguished University Professor of History and Professor of Law

969 Legal Research
Rebecca J. Scott is the Charles Gibson Distinguished University Professor of History and Professor of Law. At the Law School, she teaches a course on civil rights and the boundaries of citizenship in historical perspective, as well as a seminar on the law in slavery and freedom. She is the current president of the American Society for Legal History (2015–2017). Her most recent book, coauthored with Jean M. Hébrard, is Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation (Harvard University Press, 2012), which traces one family's interaction with law and official documents across five generations, from West Africa to the Americas to Europe. Freedom Papers was awarded the 2012 Albert Beveridge Book Award in American History and the James Rawley Book Prize in Atlantic History, both from the American Historical Association, and the 2013 Chinard Prize from the Society for French Historical Studies and the Institut Français d'Amerique. Among Professor Scott's recent articles are "Social Facts, Legal Fictions, and the Attribution of Slave Status: The Puzzle of Prescription," Law and History Review (forthcoming, 2017); "Under Color of Law: Siliadin v. France and the Dynamics of Enslavement in Historical Perspective," in Jean Allain, ed., The Legal Understanding of Slavery (Oxford University Press, 2012); "Paper Thin: Freedom and Re-enslavement in the Diaspora of the Haitian Revolution," Law and History Review (November 2011); and "Public Rights, Social Equality, and the Conceptual Roots of the Plessy Challenge," Michigan Law Review (2008). Professor Scott received an AB from Radcliffe College/Harvard University, an MPhil in economic history from the London School of Economics, and a PhD in history from Princeton University. She has held a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Visit Professor Scott's homepage.


Recent Publications

More Publications...

"Asserting Citizenship and Refusing Stigma: New Orleans Equal-Rights Activists Interpret 1803 and 1848." In New Orleans and Saint-Laint-Louis, Senegal: Mirror Cities in the Atlantic World, edited by E. Clark, I. Thioub, and C. Vidal. Baton Rouge: Louisianna State University Press, Forthcoming.​

"Social Facts, Legal Fictions, and the Attribution of Slave Status: The Puzzle of Prescription." L. & Hist. Rev. 35, no. 1 (2017): 1-22.​
Full Text: Cambridge Journals (UMich users) | Cambridge Journals

Co-author. Provas de liberdade: Uma odisseia atlantica na era da emancipacao (Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation). J.-M. Hébard, co-author. Campinas, SP: Editora da Unicamp, 2014.
Introduction (Introdução): WWW
Chapter (Capítulo) 2: WWW


In her capacity as the John Hope Franklin Visiting Professor of Legal History at Duke Law School, delivered the 2017 Robert R. Wilson Lecture. Her talk was titled "Adjudicating Status in a Time of Slavery: Luisa Coleta and the Capuchin Friar (Havana, 1817)." March 2017.

Presented the paper (coauthored with former U-M Grotius Fellows Leonardo Barbosa and Carlos Haddad), "How Does the Law put an Analogy to Work?: Diagnosing 'A condition analogous to that of a slave' in Contemporary Brazil," at the conference of the Seminario en Latinoamérica de Teoría Constitucional y Política (SELA) organized by Yale Law School, Havana, Cuba, June 2016.​

Presented the paper, "Social Facts, Legal Fictions, and the Attribution of Slave Status: The Puzzle of Prescription," at the Toronto Legal History Workshop, December 2015, and at the Gilder-Lehrman Center, Yale University, January 2016.

Presented "Safe Harbor? Securing Freedom in the Diaspora of the Haitian Revolution: Kingston, Baracoa, New Orleans," Oxford University, June 2015.​

Delivered the 2015 Erickson Lecture on "Unlawful Powers: Discerning and Denying the Presence of Slavery" at the University of Minnesota Law School, February 2015.​

Participated in a one-day workshop, "Legislating and Litigating in the Campaign Against Modern Slavery: Theory Meets Practice," University of Michigan Law School, December 2014.​

Guest speaker, "Connecting Thought and Action Across Borders: The Challenge of Contemporary Slavery," 20th anniversary celebration of the International Institute, University of Michigan, February 2014.

Presented "'Unlawful Power': Two Moments in the Creation of Property in Persons" at Yale Law School, March 2013.