Document Type


Publication Title

Yale Law Journal

Publication Date




Page Number



Spencer v. Looney, segregation, racism


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Law


"Spencer v. Looney" was one of dozens of cases decided in the eras of slavery and segregation that hinged on the question of whether a plaintiff or defendant was white or black. During the past decade, legal historians have begun to excavate these bygone disputes, which involved wills, marriage and divorce, transportation, immigration and naturalization, and libel and slander. With few exceptions, two goals have motivated recent scholarship: proving that race is a social construction and showing how courts in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries helped build America's racial infrastructure. This Essay presents a more complex picture of race in the post-Reconstruction South in an attempt to develop a richer understanding of how the law of race worked.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.