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The Pig Farmer's Daughter and Other Tales of American Justice

Episodes of Racism and Sexism in the Courts from 1865 to the Present

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Description

From the head of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and noted professor of law and history at the University of Pennsylvania, a groundbreaking book that examines both civil and criminal court cases from the Civil War to the present, to reveal the impact of stereotyping--race, class, gender--on the American legal system.

The question Mary Frances Berry asks: Whose story most strongly influences the making of legal decisions in the American justice system? Using previously unexamined material from state appellate civil and criminal court cases--cases of rape, seduction, and paternity disputes, and cases dealing with murder, inheritance, and property disputes in which sexual relations are at the heart of the story--Berry takes us through two centuries of American case law to show how attitudes toward gender, race, class, and sexuality have materially affected, and continue to affect, judicial decision-making.

Among the many cases Berry discusses:

Alabama, 1867--A white woman sues her husband for divorce in both the lower and state supreme courts because of his sexual relationship with a former slave, and is denied her petition on the basis that a sexual relationship between a white man and a black woman is "of no consequence."

New York, 1932--In a surprising victory, the longtime mistress of a theater owner successfully contests her lover's will and proves her right to inherit a wife's portion of the estate.

Texas, 1984--A suit by a woman against her female lover ends in a decision that allows the court to avoid acknowledging the existence of a lesbian relationship.

And, in the 1990s, we see the cases of William Kennedy Smith, Mike Tyson, and O. J. Simpson in a new context.

Moving stories, shocking stories, ironic stories, tragic stories--a book that fascinates in terms of its human drama, by its demonstration of the ways in which prejudice affects justice, and by its account of how the law has evolved (or hasn't) as our racial, social, and sexual attitudes have changed.

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

Mar 29, 1999 – Aiming to show just how unblind justice has been and continues to be in America, Berry (Black Resistance/White Law, etc.) examines civil and criminal court cases "that deal with the intersection of race, class, and gender." A former assistant secretary of education (under Jimmy Carter) and appointed in 1993 by Congress to chair the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Berry is no legal radical. Still, she issues an unapologetic call to arms: "only to the extent we mount and sustain reform movements can we change the law." Turning to the past, she shows how 19th-century law drew on "scientific racism... to reinforce racism and gender bias." In rape cases, writes Berry, "race, gender, and class affected courts' understanding of the status of rape victims and the accused and affected their decisions." Berry points to America's legacy of race lynching, arguing that black men were lynched not because they had raped white women but because they "challenged white male privilege." The title refers to a case in which a German immigrant farmer's daughter unsuccessfully accused of rape a mulatto supported by well-to-do white patrons--a case Berry archly compares to the outcome of the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas debacle (which, she writes, "was not about two African Americans really about the white male privilege to devalue her, and to elevate him"). With clarity and leavening flashes of wit, Berry revealingly reviews bias in the court and the rationalizations employed to uphold it.
The Pig Farmer's Daughter and Other Tales of American Justice
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Law
  • Published: Apr 12, 1999
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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