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Reframing Black Southerners’ Experiences in the Courts, 1865–1950

  • Melissa Milewski

Abstract

In civil cases that took place in southern courts from the end of the Civil War to the mid-twentieth century, black men and women frequently chose to bring litigation and then negotiated the white-dominated legal system to shape their cases and assert rights. In some ways, these civil cases were diametrically opposite from the criminal cases of black defendants who did not choose to enter a courtroom and often received unequal justice. However, this article draws on almost 2,000 cases involving black litigants in eight state supreme courts across the South between 1865 to 1950 to argue that in both civil and criminal cases African Americans were at times shaping their cases and fighting for their rights, as well as obtaining decisions that aligned with the interests of white elites. Southern state courts during the era of Jim Crow were thus spaces for negotiating for rights and sites of white domination, in both criminal and civil cases.

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Reframing Black Southerners’ Experiences in the Courts, 1865–1950

  • Melissa Milewski

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