Friday, June 6, 2008
Mack on Law and Mass Politics in the Making of the Civil Rights Lawyer, 1931-1941
Posted by Mary L. Dudziak
Law and Mass Politics in the Making of the Civil Rights Lawyer, 1931-1941 is a recent article by Kenneth W. Mack, Harvard Law School. It appeared in the Journal of American History (June 2006). Here's the abstract: What was the role of law and lawyers in the civil rights movement? Recent work has emphasized a tension between the legal strategies of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a commitment to mass movement politics and economic populism. This article takes up that question by examining the everyday lives and litigation performances of depression-era black lawyers affiliated with the NAACP, arguing that the scholarly debate should be reframed through attention to the role of courtroom performances as crucial sites where race and professional identity was made and remade for civil rights lawyers such as Charles Houston, Raymond Pace Alexander, William Hastie, and Thurgood Marshall. Responding to the critics on their left, the lawyers fashioned a new professional identity that melded the NAACP's traditional approaches and concerns with a commitment to mass democratic politics.