27 Law & Hist. Rev. 657 (2009)
Bringing the Law Back into the History of the Civil Rights Movement

handle is hein.journals/lawhst27 and id is 681 raw text is: Bringing the Law Back into the History
of the Civil Rights Movement
It is a pleasure to comment on Nancy MacLean's hugely important book
Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace1 as an
example of what I might call bringing the law back in to the history of
the civil rights movement. A generation ago, the idea that law needed to
be introduced into this history would have seemed nonsensical. At that
time, law provided one of the central touchstones in the historical nar-
rative of the struggle for racial equality in American life. Scholarship in
this area built on C. Vann Woodward's pioneering work on the rise of Jim
Crow, which itself was written shortly after Woodward's participation in
the Brown v. Board of Education litigation.2 The dominant narrative began
with the legal construction of Jim Crow in the late nineteenth century and
continued with the founding of the NAACP. Other actors came along at
various points in the story, prominent among them New Deal--era racial
liberals, World War II-era activists, midcentury social scientists, Southern
civil rights leaders and movements, and eventually black power. The end
point was marked by the litigation and legislative victories of the 1950s
and '60s, which finally wrote back into law what had been taken away by
segregationist white Southerners and a compliant Supreme Court in the
1. Nancy MacLean, Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006).
2. C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, 3rd rev. ed. (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1974).
Kenneth W. Mack is a professor of law at Harvard Law School <kmack@law

Law and History Review Fall 2009, Vol. 27, No. 3
© 2009 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

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