News & Events

Print/PDF this page:

Print Friendly and PDF

Share this page:

Katherine Franke to Discuss "Dilemmas of Citizenship: Reconstruction, Rights, and Governance," Dec. 3


Katherine M. Franke, professor of law and vice dean at Columbia Law School, will deliver the James A. Thomas Lecture on the topic "Dilemmas of Citizenship: Reconstruction, Rights, and Governance," on Tuesday, December 03, 2002, at 4:30 p.m., in Room 127. The talk is free and open to the public.


"It's a cautionary tale about what rights can deliver," Katherine Franke says of the talk she will give on Tuesday, December 3.

Franke will focus on American Reconstruction, the period just after the Civil War, and how former slaves were ushered into freedom. "When African Americans were freed, piecemeal through the South, they were very clear that what they wanted was land and to be left alone, and what we gave them was law," says Franke. "What freedom looked like for them was not land ownership and the ability to work independently, but instead a set of rights that later become part of the Fourteenth Amendment.... Rights became a new sort of discipline for African Americans."

Franke will discuss two communities in particular, one in Mississippi and one in South Carolina, where former slaves were given significant plots of land--until the land was revoked when President Andrew Johnson granted amnesty to prior slave owners. The former slaves were forced to become contract laborers and tenant farmers.

Says Franke, "Rights both enable freedom and they constrain it. Rights specifically, and law generally, creates a terrain in which freedom is exercised. It sets the rules and it creates certain subjects like a tenant farmer or a contract laborer, or a husband or a wife. So you are free if you play along with the rules. There are obviously significant penalties if you don't."

Franke will also draw a comparison between American Reconstruction and colonialism. "Part of the idea is to understand Reconstruction as a form of domestic colonialism. There are these Northern missionaries, who come from Boston and New York and Philadelphia to help the African Americans in this transition from enslavement to freedom, and it looks an awful lot like the missionary work that's being done in other parts of the world by the English, the Dutch, and others."