Race, Place, & the Law

Ethnic Studies Review, April 3, 1998 | Go to article overview

Race, Place, & the Law


David Delaney. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998). 229 pp., $17.95 paper.

David Delaney's work is informative and contributes to an understanding of race relations and the legal system. The central finding is that race relations exist in different spatial contexts at the same time. The author begins with the case Commonwealth v. Aves, 18 Pick. 193 (1836) which focuses on a young slave girl, "Med" and her freedom. The cause of action involved the movement of the servant girl to Massachusetts by her Louisiana master. The master was visiting relatives. Under Louisiana law Med was a slave, but Massachusetts law did not permit slavery.

Delaney takes the reader through each counsel's arguments before the Massachusetts Supreme Court and discusses the Court's unanimous decision to free Med. This is the approach used through much of the book.

Early in the book Delaney explains the plantation system and its relationship to control: control of master over slave, control by planters as a group, and control of whites over blacks following the Civil War. Moreover, the author also includes an interesting discussion of African-American mobility from rural areas to urban centers during the Reconstruction period and the subsequent development of Jim Crow laws.

Delaney does a superb job discussing Buchanan v. Warley 245 U.S. 60 (1917). Extensive background is provided about those advocating racial segregation in housing, as well as those opposed to the ordinance. …

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