Law and Society in the South: A History of North Carolina Court Cases (New Directions in Southern History)

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9780813125350: Law and Society in the South: A History of North Carolina Court Cases (New Directions in Southern History)
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Law and Society in the South reconstructs eight pivotal legal disputes heard in North Carolina courts between the 1830s and the 1970s and examines some of the most controversial issues of southern history, including white supremacy and race relations, the teaching of evolution in public schools, and Prohibition. Finally, the book explores the various ways in which law and society interacted in the South during the civil rights era. The voices of racial minorities-some urging integration, others opposing it-grew more audible within the legal system during this time. Law and Society in the South divulges the true nature of the courts: as the unpredictable venues of intense battles between southerners as they endured dramatic changes in their governing values.

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Although landmark Supreme Court cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade have great implications for life and culture in America, the state courts were far more influential throughout most of the nation's history. Local courthouses rather than the distant powers of Washington shaped daily life in the nineteenth century.In Law and Society in the South, John W. Wertheimer explores the complex interweaving of law and social life in the South by analyzing eight crucial North Carolina court cases from the slavery era to the civil rights era. Nowhere was the influence of the state court more prevalent than in the South. As the young nation matured after the Revolutionary War and suffered through the catastrophe of the Civil War, southern courts wove a patchwork of local jurisprudence that reflected their own particular concerns. Yet the southern legal system was neither an instrument of elite authority nor a neutral forum for dispute resolution. Southerners from all walks of life -- men and women, rich and poor, white, black, and Native American -- struggled to reform their communities, relying on the law as an agent of social change. While the cases Wertheimer examines occurred in North Carolina, the issues surrounding them -- interracial marriage, the teaching of evolution, prohibition, and perceptions about gender roles, among others -- are relevant to the study of southern history in particular and American history as a whole. Each legal development in the volume is situated within its sociohistoric context, deepening historical understanding and illuminating the broader theme of southern history. John W. Wertheimer is professor of history at Davidson College. His articles have appeared in the Law and History Review, the North Carolina Historical Review, the Journal of American History, and other publications.

About the Author:

John Wertheimer is professor of history at Davidson College. His articles have appeared in Law and History Review, North Carolina Historical Review, Journal of American History, and other publications.

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