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Review: Not Only the Judges' Robes Were Black: African-American Lawyers as Social Engineers

Reviewed Work: Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer, 1844-1944 by J. Clay Smith, Jr.
Review by: Paul Finkelman
Stanford Law Review
Vol. 47, No. 1 (Nov., 1994), pp. 161-209
Published by: Stanford Law Review
DOI: 10.2307/1229224
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1229224
Page Count: 49
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Not Only the Judges' Robes Were Black: African-American Lawyers as Social Engineers
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Abstract

In this review essay, Professor Finkelman praises J. Clay Smith's "Emancipation" for collecting and organizing a vast amount of information on African-American lawyers in the century after 1844. Smith's book offers insights on the most famous black lawyers of this period and presents new biographical information on many heretofore unknown black lawyers. According to Professor Finkelman, virtually all of these lawyers had remarkable determination to continue practicing law in the face of sharp opposition when blacks had few or no rights under the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution. He presents additional historical context for Smith's research and shows how black attorneys often had to fight prejudice within the profession even as they represented black clients before an often biased and recalcitrant judiciary. Professor Finkelman criticizes what he says is the often illogical and confusing organization of the work. Still, he calls Smith's book an important resource for students of the transformation of civil rights law.

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