The Honest Muse: Judge Wisdom and the Uses of History

42 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2010 Last revised: 15 Jul 2018

See all articles by Barry Sullivan

Barry Sullivan

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Date Written: 1985


This essay, from a volume of tributes to Judge John Minor Wisdom, examines Judge Wisdom's use of history by considering two opinions illustrating two distinct uses that the liberally educated mind may make of history. The first opinion is Judge Wisdom's opinion for the majority in U.S. v. Louisiana, a voter registration case, in which the Judge surveyed the various means which had been used in Louisiana to disenfranchise free blacks for almost 250 years. The second opinion is Judge Wisdom's dissenting opinion in U.S. v. Barnett, in which the Fifth Circuit dismissed the criminal contempt charges which had been brought against Ross Barnett, the Governor of Mississippi and his Lieutenant, based on their efforts to subvert enforcement of the court's mandate requiring the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi.

Keywords: Judge John Minor Wisdom, legal history, civil rights

JEL Classification: K4, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Sullivan, Barry, The Honest Muse: Judge Wisdom and the Uses of History (1985). Tulane Law Review, Vol. 60, No. 2, 1985, Available at SSRN:

Barry Sullivan (Contact Author)

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States


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