Defenders of Racial Justice
The Law and Literature Partnership of Albion W. Tourgée and Samuel F. Phillips
The best way to explore the confluence of law and literature from ratification of the Reconstruction amendments to Plessy is to focus on the career of a little known figure, the lawyer-novelist Albion W. Tourgée, and his relationship to Samuel Phillips, a lawyer who would become the second Solicitor General of the United States. This essay traces their efforts to achieve some semblance of racial justice in the post bellum South, and how eventually these two came to defend Homer Plessy in the infamous Plessy v Ferguson case (which established the separate but equal doctrine). In examining Plessy, this essay reveals how the structure of that defense could be traced to Tourgée's fiction, and how their defense, and its echoes, which extend to Brown v Board of Education and beyond, help to prove the old adage that truth often proves to be stranger than fiction.
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