A paradigm-shifting investigation of Jim Crow–era violence, the legal apparatus that sustained it, and its enduring legacy, from a renowned legal scholar.
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Please join us as we welcome Margaret Burnham as she discusses By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow's Legal Executioners with scholar Barbara Phillips.
Wednesday, October 12th | 5:30 PM @ Off Square Books
About the Book
If the law cannot protect a person from a lynching, then isn’t lynching the law?
In By Hands Now Known, Margaret A. Burnham, director of Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, challenges our understanding of the Jim Crow era by exploring the relationship between formal law and background legal norms in a series of harrowing cases from 1920 to 1960. From rendition, the legal process by which states make claims to other states for the return of their citizens, to battles over state and federal jurisdiction and the outsize role of local sheriffs in enforcing racial hierarchy, Burnham maps the criminal legal system in the mid-twentieth-century South, and traces the unremitting line from slavery to the legal structures of this period?and through to today.
Drawing on an extensive database, collected over more than a decade and exceeding 1,000 cases of racial violence, she reveals the true legal system of Jim Crow, and captures the memories of those whose stories have not yet been heard.
About the Author
Margaret A. Burnham is the founding director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University, and has been a staffer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a civil rights lawyer, a defense attorney, and a judge. A professor of law, she was nominated by President Biden and confirmed by the US Senate to serve on the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
About the Host
Barbara Y. Phillips was previously an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law and a civil rights litigator specializing in voting rights as partner in the San Francisco law firm Rosen & Phillips and as staff attorney with the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in its Mississippi office and Washington, D.C. Her education includes a B.A. from Macalester College; a J.D. from Northwestern University; and a J.S.M. from Stanford Law School.
Needs to be read by everyone who recognizes the historic mandate of our time: to interrupt cycles of racist violence.… Rigorously delineated, passionately argued, Margaret A. Burnham’s book offers us heart-wrenching cases.… But Burnham goes further, asking us to finally acknowledge the history of ever-present resistance, even under the most insurmountable conditions, and to consider what justice might mean today.
— Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California, Santa Cruz
In this necessary and important book, Margaret A. Burnham addresses the enormous violence necessary to sustain Jim Crow through a series of compelling case studies about the lives destroyed by the brutal regime of separate but equal.… In reckoning with the impact of this history on the present, Burnham asks how we might undo or redress this legacy of violence. It is timely and essential reading.
— Saidiya Hartman, author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments
Masterfully explores how everyday acts of violence fundamentally shaped Jim Crow during the twentieth century. With meticulous and compelling new research, Margaret A. Burnham offers a powerful, moving, and groundbreaking account of the interconnections between race, law, and citizenship in US history.
— Keisha N. Blain, coeditor of the number-one New York Times bestseller Four Hundred Souls and award-winning author of Until I Am Free
Searing.... An essential reckoning with America’s history of racial violence.
— Publishers Weekly, starred review