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July 14, 2015


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Anders Walker

Al, you're comments on Alabama Law raise an interesting question: is Lee's take on legal education and the law in general somehow related to her own experience as a law student? According to Charles Shields's biography "I Am Scout," Lee attended law school at the University of Alabama in the 1940s but dropped out before graduating. Average class size was around 100 (mostly male), faculty numbered 13, and Daniel J. Meador was one of her classmates. Lee began law school as a junior thanks to a special program at the university, but because she dropped out before graduating, never earned a degree, not even a BA. According to Shields, Lee's father was "crestfallen" that she dropped out a semester short of graduation.

Alfred L. Brophy

I'm guessing that this is related in some way to Harper Lee's experience at UA Law. I'm going to hunt around and see who was teaching Alabama pleading back in the late 1940s. Perhaps this is a nod in the direction of that person.



"Now it's hard to know just how much of this is flat-out paternalism (as in African Americans need help from white people) versus a sense -- that we sometimes hear from the like of DuBois -- that laws should look towards facilitating advancement (such as providing a decent education) rather than regulating."

Republicans favor "equal opportunity" (e.g., a "decent education" to use your words) but not "equal outcomes" (e.g., affirmative action in admissions, hiring, etc. that bends "objective" criteria in favor of diversity).

Al, most of your colleagues would think that affirmative action is justified when choosing among equally qualified candidates (based on non racial criteria), but also justified by making one of those "qualifications" race. Would you characterize giving an edge in hiring to a black female candidate as "paternalism" if, for example, her non-racial "qualifications" were less impressive that those of a white male competitor?

Obviously, a discourse on affirmative action is beyond the scope of this comment section. But, this is sort of a basic "yes" or "no" ...

I ask because the sentence quoted above seemed out of character with your usually quite apparent bias (e.g., never giving an inch or an ounce of credit to a "white" person - even if that person reversed the conviction of a black defendant in an era when such reversals were not easy - because that person was white and your assumptions about his racism despite laudable action are unshakeable, or combing thru a work of fiction, seeking any tidbit of expression that might be waived around as emblematic of the "racist South" (as if other areas of the country were not as bad or worse) to satisfy notions about "racist white Southerners" so popular today.

All this hoopla reminds one of a person "discovering" Archie Bunker and then making broad sweeping generalizations about racist Irish New Yorkers. Some truth to it? Sure. But not enough, IMHO, for a historian to pronounce as evidence of anything.



If the South was solid blue, rather than red, you wouldn't be hearing non stop about how the entire South is just a collection of redneck, racist, secessionist Confederates from journalists and politicians and others who live in segregated enclaves, send their kids to segregated private schools, etc. in the North and elsewhere.

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