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Confronting InjusticeMoral History and Political Theory$
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David Lyons

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199662555

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199662555.001.0001

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The Legal Entrenchment of Illegality 1

The Legal Entrenchment of Illegality 1

(p.29) 3 The Legal Entrenchment of Illegality1
Confronting Injustice

David Lyons

Oxford University Press

This essay traces the seventeenth‐century creation of race-based slavery in the North American English colonies, its eighteenth‐century entrenchment in the US Constitution and subsequent public policy, the aborted post‐Civil War “reconstruction” of the former slave states, followed by the development of Jim Crow, a system as close to chattel slavery as federal policy allowed, and the twentieth‐century commitment to civil rights. History reveals that race relations were fluid in the early colonies, that racial stratification was not predetermined, and that racist policies developed when decision-makers were aware of more egalitarian alternatives. Recent substantive civil rights reforms now appear irreversible, but public policy leaves largely undisturbed the persisting legacy of racial subordination, which defeats our ideal of equal opportunity and presents a radical challenge to people of good will.

Keywords:   malfeasance, non-feasance, racism, Jim Crow, the rule of law, Hart’s legal theory

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