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Program in Law and History

The Program in Law and History was established in 2007. The program's mission is to support the study of law in its historical context. The program brings together scholars and students from the University of Minnesota and around the world to foster teaching and research in all areas and periods of legal history.

Spring 2015 Legal History Workshop
Seminar Guest Schedule

Professor Barbara Welke

All workshops with speakers will convene on Fridays from 10:10 a.m. - 12:10 p.m. in Room 15 of the Law School, unless otherwise noted.

If you would like a copy of the paper or wish to be added to our mailing list, contact Morgan Gooch at gooch010@umn.edu. For more information about the workshops, contact Barbara Welke at welke004@umn.edu.



Room 473
"Dependency and Its Discontents: The Fractious Politics of Federal Welfare Grants, 1948-1953"
Karen Tani, Assistant Professor of Law, University of California Berkeley

Abstract: This chapter of my book manuscript, States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, 1935-1965, follows public assistance into the 1950s, when restive state politicians became federal administrators' biggest problem. By this point, statutory reforms, administrative practices, and socio-economic changes had caused the number of public assistance recipients to grow and their perceived deservingness to wane. But federal administrators, many of whom had remained in place since the mid-1930s, continued to push their New Deal vision. With the Depression over and more conservative leadership in place at the federal level, some state officials pushed back: throughout the early Cold War period, they questioned federal policies, disobeyed federal agency mandates, and with increasing confidence, advanced their own interpretations of federal law, sometimes even attempting to drag the federal agency into court. This chapter examines several of the states that, for varying reasons, posed the most serious challenges to federal administrators between the late 1940s and early 1960s. They are not the states that scholars might expect. To date, studies of post-war welfare "backlash" have tended to focus on the Deep South, and have invoked race as the key explanatory variable. The episodes in this chapter—involving Arizona, Indiana, and New York—invite a more nuanced interpretation, in which race figures importantly, but so do suspicions of technocratic and bureaucratic governance, tensions in federal-state-local relations, and deep disagreements over which authorities and institutions were entitled to determine the content and boundaries of citizenship.


3:30 p.m.
Room 30
"Unlawful Powers: Discerning and Denying the Presence of Slavery"
The Ronald A. and Kristine S. Erickson Legal History Lecture
Rebecca Scott, Charles Gibson Distinguished University Professor of History, Professor of Law, University of Michigan

Abstract: Slavery in the nineteenth-century Americas rested on the recognition of property rights in persons, but what is less clear is the process by which property in a particular person came to be seen as legally and socially legitimate. How did law and society "know" a person to be a slave, and how might a person so claimed prove otherwise? In this lecture Rebecca Scott explores the stories of three women, each of whom was held or seized as property in nineteenth-century Louisiana, and each of whom had a potential claim to free status. The child named Sanitte and the woman called Adélaide Métayer had come as refugees from the Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue; the grandmother named Eulalie Oliveau had been born under Spanish rule in the parish of Pointe Coupée, upriver from New Orleans. Law acted upon them, and they themselves sometimes sought recourse to law. Once they came within the realm of law, however, their fates depended crucially on fragile networks of kinship and alliance, on people who could assist them but could also betray them.
Discussion with Rebecca Scott and Jean M. Hebrard, Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation, (Harvard University Press, 2012)
"Other Foreigners: U. S. Immigration and Citizenship Law, 1600-2000"
Kunal Parker, Professor of Law and Dean's Distinguished Scholar, University of Miami School of Law

Abstract: This book reconceptualizes the history of U.S. immigration and citizenship law from the colonial period to the beginning of the twenty-first century by joining the histories of immigrants to those of Native Americans, blacks, women, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, and the poor. At the earliest stages of American history, the book argues, being legally constructed as a foreigner, together with being subjected to restrictions on presence and movement, was not confined to those who sought to enter the country from the outside, but was also used against those on the inside. Insiders thus shared important legal disabilities with outsiders. It is only over the course of four centuries, with the spread of formal and substantive citizenship among the domestic population, a hardening distinction between citizen and alien, and the rise of a powerful centralized state, that the uniquely disabled legal subject we recognize today as the immigrant emerged. The book thus advances new ways of understanding the relationship between foreignness and subordination over the long span of American history.


"Three Americans and the Shaping of the UN Conventions on Refugees and the Stateless"
Linda K. Kerber, May Brodbeck Professor in the Liberal Arts & Sciences, Professor of History Emerita and Lecturer in the College of Law, University of Iowa

Abstract: In this paper, I reflect on the nexus between stateless persons, refugees, and international protection. The United States did not sign either of the statelessness conventions of 1954 and 1961. It did not embrace the Refugee Convention of 1951 until the Protocol of 1967 was added (and Lyndon Johnson was in the White House). But three American lawyers, all in their early 30s when first involved, played central roles in the shaping of these conventions. For Dorothy Kenyon, Manley O. Hudson and Louis Henkin, stateless persons, refugees and international protection were inextricably linked. They were patriots who never lost their skepticism. They were idealists who never lost their passion. The accomplishments—and defeats—of their work continue to infuse our own ability to address the challenges of immigration today.
"Conscientious Objection, Conscience Clauses, and Religious Exemptions: Debating Rights, Obligations, and the Public Sphere, 1973-1974"
Sara Dubow, Associate Professor of History, Williams College

Abstract: In 1973 and 1974, Congress passed three laws that included exemptions for individuals, groups, and organizations with religious or moral objections: The Public Health Services Act, which exempted health care personnel and institutions with religious or moral objections from providing or performing abortions or sterilization procedures; the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which required that states include religious exemptions to child neglect regulations; and an amendment to the National Labor Relations Act,, which exempted employees who are members of religion or sect opposed to labor organizations from paying union dues. That same Congress considered but did not pass the World Peace Tax Fund Act, which would have allowed taxpayers to designate the payment of their income taxes to a fund that would not be appropriated for any military purposes. This paper analyzes these laws as a way of understanding how debates over Vietnam, abortion, and the “rights revolution” had generated new ways of conceptualizing and legislating conflicts between private beliefs and public policies, and a new set of questions about the relationship between individual rights, the obligations of citizenship, and the public sphere.


"Faith and Property in African American History"
Dylan Penningroth, Professor of History, Northwestern University

Abstract: This paper aims to raise some questions about the meaning and significance of “civil rights” by examining African Americans’ encounter with the private law of religion. It argues that the rise of independent black institutions was accompanied by an explosion of black legal activity and that a close look at the written residue of that activity can change the way we think about race and law in this period. Black people challenged powerful whites for control of property belonging to America’s big Protestant denominations; they brought suits in internal disputes; and they engaged in the routine legal activity of running a church. Dealing with law, in turn, made black churches a site for debates over leadership and inclusion, a kind of practical law school for churchmembers and, later, a crucial source of business for black professionals, especially lawyers. Churches, which during slavery had functioned as alternative dispute resolution forums, embarked on a more complex and anxious debate after emancipation about what was the proper role for law in Christian life, now that black Christians were citizens. We are used to thinking of the black church as a vital center of black culture and the seedbed of the modern civil rights movement. Analyzing the black church as property suggests that in certain limited ways, black people entered American civic life long before 1865, and that the story of black citizenship was intertwined with their religious history.
Voting Rights Act Commemoration
"Naturalization and De-Naturalization between Empire and Nation: Citizenship Laws in Chile, 1810-1844"
Sarah Chambers, Professor of History, University of Minnesota

Abstract: From the 1810 formation in Santiago of an assembly claiming home rule while the Spanish monarch was a prisoner of Napoleon until Spain's recognition of the nation's independence in 1844, who qualified as a Chilean national was not always clear. A Spaniard born in Europe could assert that his long residence and family ties made him Chilean, and senators might grant him naturalization despite their frequent denunciations of royalists in their midst plotting against independence. Conversely, a loyal Spanish subject born in Chile could consider his choice to continue favoring union with Spain to be patriotic, even as separatists threatened him with exile. Thus, just as one could be naturalized, another might be accused of acting in a way that "de-naturalized" him. This paper analyzes the shifting policies on naturalization during the wars of independence and nation-state formation in Chile. During the military conflict from 1813 to 1826, political loyalties frequently defined the boundary between a patriotic Chilean or Spaniard worthy of citizenship, on the one hand, from a dangerous royalist, whether foreign-born or denaturalized, on the other. Nevertheless, even during wartime, Chilean officials believed that marriage and children could tie an immigrant to the nation and that not all relatives of even enemy émigrés should suffer the penalties, such as property confiscation, applied to royalist husbands and fathers. After the royal army was defeated in Peru (1824) and the southern outpost of Chiloé (1826), moreover, policies began to facilitate the return and incorporation of Spanish émigrés into the "great Chilean family." Although presidents, senators and judges could not settle on a consistent method for handling the assets seized by the state during the war, the government did increasingly compensate some of the losses incurred by émigrés and their heirs even if it did not return properties already transferred to third parties.
"Freedom at the Font: Baptismal Manumission and Re-enslavement in Colonial Lima"
Michelle McKinley, Bernard B. Kliks Associate Professor, University of Oregon School of Law

Abstract: This paper explores the dynamics of mixed-status parent-child relations, infused as they were by slavery, dependency, and freedom. In particular, the article examines the impact of baptismal manumission on children's legal claims to freedom. I suggest that a higher probability of re-enslavement ensued from baptismal manumission if the child remained in a familial unit that was enslaved or tied to the same household. In other words, baptismal manumission was tantamount to constructive re-enslavement. Colonial Latin American societies deemed children as dependent and in need of control and tutelage by social superiors: this was acutely the case for children of slaves. While much of the scholarly literature within Atlantic legal history on re-enslavement is concerned with the fate of enslaved peoples after public emancipation, or with jurisdictional tensions between free soil regimes and slave states, this paper focuses on the fate of children within enslaved families, and traces the interconnected worlds of freed people and slaves.
"The 1965 Immigration Act: 50 Years of New Immigration and Immigration Debates"
Erika Lee, Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History, Director, Immigration History Research Center, Professor of History and Asian American Studies, University of Minnesota

Abstract: 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Immigration Act, a law that removed discriminatory national origins quotas and led to historic rates of new immigration. The foreign-born population now numbers over 40 million, or around 13 percent of the total U.S. population. They are settling in places that have traditionally welcomed immigrants like New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles, as well as in other cities and areas where such large scale immigration is new: Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Salt Lake City. At the same time, the Act set limits on immigration from the Western Hemisphere for the first time and ushered in a new era of unprecedented undocumented immigration. The legacies of the act have formed both a new immigrant America and new immigration debates. This informal paper seeks to map out the significance of the 1965 Act and its consequences for a public audience in order to provide much needed historical context to today’s (often divisive) discussions about contemporary immigration.
Program in Law and History Logo


Susanna Blumenthal
Professor of Law,
Associate Professor of History
American Legal History

Barbara Young Welke
Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Professor of History and Professor of Law
American Legal and Constitutional History


Morgan Gooch