Bringing the Law Back into the History of the Civil Rights Movement
14 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2011
Date Written: December 19, 2011
This paper uses a review of Nancy MacLean's FREEDOM IS NOT ENOUGH: THE OPENING OF THE AMERICAN WORKPLACE (2008), to challenge historians to re-integrate law and legal institutions into the civil rights history. It critiques recent work in the social history of the civil rights movement for ignoring litigation and legal institutions, and/or regarding them as an impediment to social movement organization. Recent political-science inspired work that examines civil rights history, by contrast, has focused on the Supreme Court rather than social movement organization. The paper argues that recent work by Risa Goluboff, David Engstrom, Sophia Lee, Paul Frymer, and Kenneth Mack points the way for scholars in reorienting the legal history of the civil rights movement away from the NAACP's school desegregation campaign and toward the struggle for economic citizenship. As such, the paper argues, such work provides a model for re-integrating law into the social history of the civil rights movement.
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