Radical Notion of Democracy: Law, Race, and Albion Tourgée

On Friday November 4, 2011, a Public Law and Humanities Symposium will be held at the State Archives/Library Building and State Capitol Building in Raleigh, N.C.:

A Radical Notion of Democracy: Law, Race, and Albion Tourgée, 1865-1905

“A Radical Notion of Democracy: Law, Race, and Albion Tourgée, 1865-1905” recalls the legacies of Reconstruction to offer insight into ongoing policy debates. A former Union soldier, Albion Tourgée settled in Greensboro in 1865 in hopes of helping to shape the new post-slavery South. A lawyer, judge, novelist, and activist, Tourgée worked for racial equality in the state for thirteen years. His North Carolina legacy lives on in the provisions of the state Constitution guaranteeing free public education, as well as other reforms. He later achieved national fame for representing Homer Plessy in Plessy v. Ferguson(1896), the U.S. Supreme Court case that established separate-but-equal facilities as the foundation of de jure segregation.

The program features two keynote lectures and two panel discussions with eight distinguished scholars of law and history. Special attention will be devoted to Tourgée’s contributions to the North Carolina Constitution of 1868, including his commitment to the guarantee of equality in public education. The symposium also will consider Tourgée’s lasting contribution to the discourse of civil rights, as it has come down to us through Justice John Harlan’s dissent in Plessy:  the concept of a “color-blind” Constitution. Concluding the day will be a reception and performance of Constitutional Tales in the House Chamber of the State Capitol, a live reenactment of scenes from the Constitutional Convention of 1868.

For more information or to register for the symposium, visit the website for the Center For The Study of The American South, part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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