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This essay is the introduction to the recently published book, The Long, Lingering Shadow: Slavery, Race , and Law in the American Hemisphere (University of Georgia Press, 2013). Students of American history know of the law’s critical role in developing a system of racial hierarchy in the United States. The Long, Lingering Shadow shows that this history is best appreciated in a comparative perspective. The volume looks at the parallel legal histories of race relations in the United States, Brazil, and Spanish America. It takes the reader on a journey that begins with the origins of New World slavery in colonial Latin America and continues on to the current debates and litigation over affirmative action in Brazil and the United States. The Long, Lingering Shadow also examines contemporary struggles against racial discrimination and Afro-Latin invisibility in the Spanish-speaking nations of the hemisphere.

Ranging across such topics as slavery, emancipation, scientific racism, immigration policies, racial classifications, and legal processes, The Long, Lingering Shadow unravels a complex odyssey. By the eve of the Civil War, the slave system in the United States was rooted in a legal and cultural foundation of racial exclusion unmatched in the Western Hemisphere. That system’s legacy would later be echoed in Jim Crow, the practice of legally mandated segregation. Jim Crow in turn caused leading Latin Americans to regard their nations as models of racial equality because their laws did not mandate racial discrimination—a belief that masked very real patterns of racism and racial exclusion throughout the Americas. And yet, as The Long, Lingering Shadow shows, if the United States has had a history of more-rigid racial exclusion, since the Second World War it has also had a more thorough civil rights revolution, with significant legal victories over racial discrimination. The Long, Lingering Shadow explores this remarkable transformation and shows how it is now inspiring civil rights activists throughout the Americas.

GW Paper Series

GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2013-104 ; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2013-104


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