CAAS 450 is the first half of a two-course sequence on the constitutional and legal history of African Americans. It covers the phase of this history that begins with European exploration of the western hemisphere, and ends as we set the stage for the advent of the Modern Civil Rights movement. A unique backdrop for our work throughout the term will be the historical significance of the year 2005. This is, among other things, the 50th anniversary of two pivotal events in the history of the Modern Civil Rights Movement — the murder of 14 year old Emmett Till in Money Mississippi, and the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. It is the 40th anniversary year of the passage of the monumental Voting Rights Act of 1965. If the events of 1955, along with the historic Brown decision of the year before, represented the opening salvo in the Modern Civil Rights Era, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, combined with the other legislative foundation posts initiated in that era, and was the practical policy steps taken to usher in an era of operational equality in American life.
CAAS 450 will look, however, at the origins of this central challenge of the 20th and 21st centuries. That challenge, essentially is to resolve the “birth conflicts” present as the North American colonies and later the United States take shape. In looking at the how and why questions of law in the time period from 1400-1900, CAAS 450 will focus upon the conceptual underpinnings of the study of race and law in the U.S., the era of Constitutional formation, the dynamics of law in the antebellum period, the possibilities and limitations of law in Reconstruction and thereafter, and the halting nature of the quest for power and presence during the period of Jim Crow segregation.
Two tests, final examination and writings analyses. Readings by Derrick Bell, Annette Gordon Reed, Thurgood Marshall, and others.