Introduction: A Radical Notion of Democracy: Law, Race, and Albion Tourgee, 1865-1905
22 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2013
Date Written: April 16, 2013
Introduction to special issue of the Elon Law Review stemming from symposium on Albion Tourgée held in Raleigh, N.C., on Nov. 4, 2011. A former Union soldier, Tourgée settled in Greensboro in 1865 in hopes of helping to shape the new post-slavery South. A lawyer, judge, novelist, and activist, Tourgée worked for racial equality in the state for thirteen years. His North Carolina legacy lives on in the provisions of the state Constitution guaranteeing free public education, as well as other reforms. He later achieved national fame for representing Homer Plessy in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the U.S. Supreme Court case that established separate-but-equal facilities as the foundation of de jure segregation.
Special attention is devoted to Tourgée’s contributions to the North Carolina Constitution of 1868, including his commitment to the guarantee of equality in public education. The symposium also considered Tourgée’s lasting contribution to the discourse of civil rights, as it has come down to us through Justice John Harlan’s dissent in Plessy: the concept of a “color-blind” Constitution. The introduction concludes with a discussion of the ways in which the concept of "color-blindness" in civil rights discourse has become problematic.
Keywords: Civil Rights, Reconstruction, North Carolina Constitution, Plessy v. Ferguson
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