Grant: $131,518 - National Science Foundation - Jul. 1, 2009
0% voted satisfied - 100% voted not satisfied - 1 vote(s) cast
Award Description: This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5). This project investigates the activities and experiences of African Americans in local civil courts from the Civil War through the Great Migration. Jim Crow-era courts are usually portrayed as hostile or indifferent to African Americans, touching their lives only through criminal trials or civil rights lawsuits. Yet a whole world of black legal activity was flourishing in America's local courts, one that sprawls beyond the familiar images of crime and civil rights and has barely been explored. Combining archival materials with recent advances in digitized census research, this project will identify the litigants in a sample of 3,700 civil cases from local courts in four states - Virginia, New Jersey, Mississippi, and Illinois - including roughly 560 involving African-Americans. And it will combine the associated case files with other archival materials to build a qualitative analysis of the mobilization of law. Common understandings of how late-nineteenth-century courts actually worked, how ordinary people approached them, and how people understood 'the law' are largely based on evidence from appellate courts, which are not typical of anyone's legal experiences. Shifting focus from criminal to civil cases, and from appellate to trial courts promises to yield a different, yet complementary story of blacks as active legal subjects. It offers a way to put race relations - perhaps the dominant framework of African American history - in the context of intra-racial relations, for most of the suits blacks brought were against other blacks. From property ownership to marriage and divorce, from the Great Migration to the black church: some of the most central parts of black life were deeply engaged with law and legal institutions. The project thus seeks to clarify the relationship between historically disadvantaged minority groups and legal institutions. And it will capture a bottom-up view of how ordinary Americans of all races interacted with law and legal processes.
Project Description: See Award Description for a general description of the project. During the past quarter (July 1 - Sept. 30, 2009) the primary activity has been identifying litigants through the digitized manuscript Census. Research Assistants have processed or cross-checked 562 cases. The P.I. has partially compiled the raw spreadsheet for data from Pulaski County, Illinois.
Infrastructure Description: N/A
Jobs Summary: Prime Recipient has retained three part-time Research Assistants. Prime Recipient has retained the P.I. for additional one-half summer month. (Total jobs reported: 1)
Project Status: Less Than 50% Completed
This award's data was last updated on Jul. 1, 2009. Help expand these official descriptions using the wiki below.