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Prof. Martha Jones 

Program in Race, Law & History Celebrates Second Conference

By Lori Atherton
Oct. 25, 2012

When top scholars from around the country gather at Michigan Law Oct. 26 for the "Proclaiming Emancipation" conference, they’ll discuss the impact the Emancipation Proclamation has had on United States and world history.

Bringing together scholars to analyze present-day dynamics of race in historical terms is one of the goals of the Law School's Program in Race, Law & History, which launched in April 2011. The program is co-sponsoring the "Proclaiming Emancipation" conference and an accompanying exhibit at Hatcher Graduate Library, which commemorates the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (issued January 1, 1863).

"We're bringing the Law School's perspective on race and law to the entire campus," said Prof. Martha Jones, co-director of the Program in Race, Law & History, a member of the Law School's Affiliated LS&A Faculty, and associate professor of history and associate chair of the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies. "We think in multilayered ways about race, law, and history, and how the ideas of race and law permeate our culture, courtrooms, and legislatures."

In addition to scholarly collaboration, key program features include cutting-edge scholarship, the training of emerging practitioners and legal historians, and a curriculum that features workshops and classes on legal history, the law in slavery and freedom, race and American law, early and modern American legal history, and more. Additional courses are being developed, Prof. Jones said, while existing courses are cross-listed within the Law School and U-M's College of Literature, Science and the Arts, allowing for JD and other graduate students to come together and share different viewpoints.

This fall, the program launched its fellowship program for emerging scholars—JD, PhD, and other graduate students at U-M—who are interested in contributing to the area of race, law, and history. Two law students, two history students, and an American culture student were awarded fellowships to participate in the ongoing work of the program, including workshops, conferences, and symposia. They also will receive financial support for independent research and conference travel.

Some students in the program will go on to become legal academics, Prof. Jones said, while others will pursue careers in public-interest work. Still others will practice in various areas within the legal field, including criminal defense and civil-rights litigation, "where questions of race, inequality, and justice become part of everyday practice," Prof. Jones said.

"The ability to analyze skills historically is useful for any good litigator," she noted. "We believe better lawyers, better policymakers, and better judges are those who can think analytically about history."

For more information on the Program in Race, Law & History, visit:


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