Obligations Impaired: Justice Jonathan Jasper Wright and the Failure of Reconstruction in South Carolina

31 Pages Posted: 16 May 2019

See all articles by Cale Jaffe

Cale Jaffe

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: 2003

Abstract

This Note considers the career of Jonathan Jasper Wright, the nation’s first African American state supreme court justice, in the context of post-Civil War reconstruction in South Carolina. It provides a close reading of Justice Wright’s published opinions in order to gain a better understanding of his judicial philosophy and how that philosophy interacted with the politics of the era. From his writings, Justice Wright appears as a cautious jurist who envisioned a governing union comprised of “men of experience” - whites and African Americans, Republicans and Democrats. During the South Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1868 he asserted, “We are here, I trust, … with hatred and malice towards no man who has held a slave.” Justice Wright earned a remarkable civil rights victory in securing a seat on the supreme court in a state dominated by a hostile and unrepentantly racist culture, but his accomodationist approach while on the bench was ultimately doomed to fail. The South Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1895 carried forth an explicit charge to disenfranchise African Americans and reinstate white supremacy.

Suggested Citation

Jaffe, Cale, Obligations Impaired: Justice Jonathan Jasper Wright and the Failure of Reconstruction in South Carolina (2003). Michigan Journal of Race & Law, Vol. 8, 2003; Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3385410

Cale Jaffe (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.virginia.edu/faculty/profile/caj5f/1176168

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