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This is an Article on race relations and comparative legal history. It contrasts the law of race and slavery in three Latin American nations, Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela, with the parallel history in the United States. The Article examines the Afro-Latin experience as a critical issue in its own right and as a way to better inform our discussion of racial hierarchy, identity, and legal remedy in the United States. This Article examines the paradoxical role played by liberal legal and cultural norms in the United States. It shows how liberalism helped create a system of castelike separation between black and white in the United States. This castelike separation was far more rigid than found elsewhere in the hemisphere and was enforced by discriminatory laws. Yet the Article also argues that the very liberalism that helped create strong castelike boundaries in the United States has also helped produce a more thorough North American civil rights revolution than has, to date, occurred in Latin America.
After the Introduction in Part I, this Article is divided into four more parts. Part II, entitled "The Enduring Significance of Race," briefly reviews current debates in U.S. society over the extent to which law should recognize race or take race into account in such areas as remedial efforts, racial definition, and criminal justice. Part III is called "Afro-Americans, A Hemispheric Perspective," and provides the reader with an introduction to the issues of race and Afro-American populations in Latin America, as well as a comparison of racial stratification in the United States and Latin America. Part IV is named "Slavery, Freedom, and the Law: Differing American Experiences." This Part examines the role of the law of slavery in developing and sustaining differing patterns of race relations in the Americas. The role of law in perpetuating and challenging racial hierarchy in the United States, Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela after emancipation is examined in Part V, entitled "From Emancipation to Equality, the Unfinished Journey."

GW Paper Series

GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-124, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-124

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