MLaw Conference on race, law and history marks U-M's launch of Inter-School, Interdisciplinary Program

A conference highlighting emerging scholars in race, law, and history held April 1 and 2 also served to introduce a new Michigan Law interdisciplinary program available to students beginning this year.

'' 'We Must First Take Account': A Conference on Race, Law, and History in the Americas'' is designed to showcase young scholars working to establish themselves in the field. The scholarly gathering, held at U-M's Clements Library and in Hutchins Hall, also served to formally launch Michigan Law's new Program in Race, Law & History.

The new program's curriculum features workshops and classes on legal history, the law in slavery and freedom, race and American law, early and modern American legal history, and more.

The title of the conference is taken from Justice Harry Blackmun's opinion in the 1978 California v. Bakke decision, the landmark Supreme Court case that helped define constitutionally permissible ways to use race as a factor when making university admission decisions. ''To get beyond racism,'' Blackmun wrote, ''we must first take account of race.'' Since the decision, legal scholars and historians have worked hard to do just that, mining legal sources in an attempt to explain race's central role in the history of the Americas.

The conference complemented the introduction of the new academic program, led by Prof. Martha S. Jones, a member of the Law School's affiliate LS&A faculty and an associate professor of history and Afroamerican and African studies; Prof. William J. Novak, an award-winning legal scholar and historian at the Law School; and Prof. Rebecca J. Scott, the Charles Gibson Distinguished University Professor of History and Professor of Law.

Michigan's new Program in Race, Law & History reflects a natural link for the university, whose struggle for diversity in the Grutter v. Bollinger case is likely to be studied for years by scholars around the globe. The program will provide students an opportunity for organized study with faculty who share their passion for learning about the intricate interplay between race and the law in the history of the Americas. Key program features will include cutting-edge scholarship, the training of emerging practitioners and legal historians, and collaboration with scholars within U-M and elsewhere. The goal is to provide a unique historical perspective on the ongoing importance of race.

The conference was sponsored by Michigan Law, the American Society for Legal History, and the Legal History Consortium, a group of law schools including those from the University of Illinois, the University of Minnesota, the University of Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

Published: Mon, Apr 18, 2011