A Social History of Everyday Practice: Sadie T.M. Alexander and the Incorporation of Black Women into the American Legal Profession, 1925-60

34 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2002 Last revised: 26 Jul 2014

Kenneth W. Mack

Harvard Law School

Abstract

This article presents a humanist social history of the everyday professional lives of Sadie T.M. Alexander and her peers at the early twentieth-century black women's bar, contending that a finely-detailed analysis of quotidian law practice reveals the methodological limitations of the reigning interpretations of the history of the American bar during this period. Alexander and her peers' professional lives were hemmed in by race and gender-based structural features of the bar, as the received interpretations of the period would predict, but those professional lives were also shaped by an under-theorized social milieu of race and class formation, gender role contestation, lawyer-client conflict and day-to-day professional relationships. That social milieu would provide Alexander and her peers with tools that would enable them to obtain a surprising, and often ironic, degree of power and prestige in the profession - surprising, at least, from the perspective of the dominant interpretive paradigm for the bar in this period.

Keywords: Sadie Alexander, African American Women Lawyers, Civil Rights, Legal Profession, Feminist Legal Theory, Critical Race Feminism, Legal History, Critical Race Theory

JEL Classification: Z13, N820, N920, Z130, Z190

Suggested Citation

Mack, Kenneth W., A Social History of Everyday Practice: Sadie T.M. Alexander and the Incorporation of Black Women into the American Legal Profession, 1925-60. Cornell Law Review, Vol. 87, p. 1405, 2002; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 34. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=317339

Kenneth W. Mack (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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