(Re)Framing Race in Civil Rights Lawyering

30 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2020

See all articles by Angela Onwuachi-Willig

Angela Onwuachi-Willig

Boston University School of Law

Anthony Victor Alfieri

University of Miami School of Law

Date Written: August 25, 2020

Abstract

A review of Henry Louis Gates, Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (Penguin Press, 2019). The Review proceeds in four parts. Part I parses Gates’s analysis of the rise of white supremacist ideology and the accompanying concept of the “Old Negro” during the Redemption era and the countervailing emergence of the concept of a “New Negro” culminating in the Harlem Renaissance. Part II examines the lawyering process as a rhetorical site for constructing racialized narratives and racially subordinating visions of client, group, and community identity through acts of representing, prosecuting, and defending people of color in civil rights, poverty law, and criminal cases. Part III evaluates the permissibility of racialized narratives and racially subordinating visions under what courts like to refer to as colorblind or race-neutral lawyering process traditions and legal ethics conventions, assessing their logic under naturalistic and necessitarian rationales borrowed from the science, literature, and symbolism of Jim Crow segregation excavated by Gates. A wide span of lawyers — criminal prosecutors and public defenders as well as civil rights and poverty lawyers — routinely craft such narratives and images in their work. Part IV puts forward an alternative set of race-conscious advocacy practices and ethics precepts infused by the antisubordination norms of racial dignity and equality garnered from the early black resistance movements documented by Gates for use in contemporary civil rights, poverty law, and criminal cases attacking legal, political, and economic systems of structural inequality.

Keywords: civil rights, Jim Crow, poverty law, race, white supremacy, lawyering

Suggested Citation

Onwuachi-Willig, Angela and Alfieri, Anthony Victor, (Re)Framing Race in Civil Rights Lawyering (August 25, 2020). Yale Law Journal, Vol. 130, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3699674

Angela Onwuachi-Willig

Boston University School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
6415102368 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.bu.edu/law/profile/angela-onwuachi-willig/

Anthony Victor Alfieri (Contact Author)

University of Miami School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 248087
1311 Miller Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33124
United States
305-284-2735 (Phone)
305-284-1588 (Fax)

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