Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=137967
 


 



Felix Frankfurter, Charles Hamilton Houston and the 'N-Word': A Case Study in the Evolution of Judicial Attitudes Toward Race


David M. Siegel


New England Law | Boston


Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1998

Abstract:     
The article concerns the U.S. Supreme Court's first consideration of the diminished capacity doctrine, in a 1944 case in which an African-American janitor killed a white, female librarian at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. - for no apparent reason other than that she called him a "nigger." The article relies on previously unpublished material from Felix Frankfurter's papers to trace the changes in Frankfurter's attitudes concerning racial discrimination between 1946 and 1954. The article argues that, based on this newly discovered material, Frankfurter's attitudes toward the social effects of racial discrimination were far more radical in 1946 than they were in 1953, when Brown v. Board of Education reached the Court. It explores how the defendant's counsel, the civil rights lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston, crafted then novel arguments to encourage these attitudes, and employed new developments in psychology to demonstrate the reality of racial discrimination in the criminal context, as he had done in labor, education and housing. Finally, it draws a parallel between the efforts of Frankfurter and Houston to develop a juristic rhetoric of race in the pre-desegregation period and the work of the pioneering African-American psychiatrist Ernest Y. Williams, the defendant's expert in the case, who had the same project in the area of mental health. It compares the efforts, and difficulties, both Williams and Houston faced in crafting terms of discourse which would permit them -- within the confines of their respective disciplines -- to identify the effects of state-sponsored discrimination.

Accepted Paper Series


Not Available For Download

Date posted: October 28, 1998  

Suggested Citation

Siegel, David M., Felix Frankfurter, Charles Hamilton Houston and the 'N-Word': A Case Study in the Evolution of Judicial Attitudes Toward Race. Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1998. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=137967

Contact Information

David M. Siegel (Contact Author)
New England Law | Boston ( email )
154 Stuart St.
Boston, 02116
United States
(617) 422-7270 (Phone)
(617) 422-7453 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.nesl.edu/clsr/

Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 831

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo8 in 0.235 seconds