Critical race theory: protesting against formalism in the law, 1969-1999

Jones, Bernie Donna-Maria, Department of History, University of Virginia
McCurdy, Charles W., Department of History, University of Virginia
Kett, Joseph, Department of History, University of Virginia
Balogh, Brian, As-History, University of Virginia

This dissertation traces the intellectual history of civil rights discourse throughout the 20th century, with particular emphasis on the post-civil rights era. It explores the development of critical race theory through its roots in various schools of legal thought: legal liberalism, critical legal studies, and law and society. Responding to a growing political conservatism and the Supreme Court's return to formalist legal thought on civil rights, the critical race theorists argued for the in utility of legal liberalism, calling into question the driving faith of earlier lawyer activists that the law could drive societal change. Through their scholarship, critical race theorists inserted themselves into public debate on contemporary civil rights questions, such as racial discrimination and affirmative action, in an attempt to influence consciousness of race and the law. But they also made the civil rights debate a popular one, once they wrote literature accessible to a general audience. This trend indicated the salience of postmodemism and pointed to the significance of both law and literature and cultural legal studies in the development of critical race theory. Dedication Every major project has a creation story, and this dissertation is no exception. I could not have done this project without the support and good will of many people relatives , friends, mentors, all of whom it is impossible to name here. You have my eternal gratitude. But most important are those people who encouraged me in taking my law school dream of becoming a scholar .and turning it into reality. Thanks to my committee members Brian Balogh and Joseph Kett, for believing in me when it mattered most, when I was a young graduate student. Thanks to Charles W. McCurdy, my advisor and dissertation chair, for helping me become a historian, and for realizing that critical race theory was far more interesting to me than the municipal liability law I once practiced. Paulette Caldwell's class on critical race theory at New York University School of Law fired my interest back in 1991. But I understand the topic so much better now, after spending four years researching and writing. Thanks to my committee member Alex Johnson, for helping me start the research process. Thanks also to the institutions that gave me fellowship aid, research support and the chance to teach as I was writing: the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies, the University of Virginia Graduate Dean's Office and the history department, the Feminist Legal Theory Project at Cornell Law school, the Law and Society Association Summer Institute, and the Sweet Briar College duPont scholar-inresidence program. The greatest thanks of all to my parents, Michael and Eliza Jones, for their unwavering love and support for me in all that I do. I am dedicating my dissertation to you.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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