The Long Lingering Shadow

The Long, Lingering Shadow: Slavery, Race, and Law in the American Hemisphere

by Robert J. Cottrol,
Harold Paul Green Research Professor of Law and
Professor of History and Sociology
George Washington University

Students of American history know of the law’s critical role in systematizing a racial hierarchy in the United States. Showing that this history is best appreciated in a comparative perspective, The Long, Lingering Shadow (University of Georgia Press, February, 2013) looks at the parallel legal histories of race relations in the United States, Brazil, and Spanish America. Robert J. Cottrol takes the reader on a journey from the origins of New World slavery in colonial Latin America to current debates and litigation over affirmative action in Brazil and the United States, as well as 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, Cottrol unravels a complex odyssey. By the eve of the Civil War, the U.S. slave system was rooted in a legal and cultural foundation of racial exclusion unmatched in the Western Hemisphere. That system’s legacy was later 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 throughout the Americas. And yet, Cottrol says, 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. Cottrol explores this remarkable transformation and shows how it is now inspiring civil rights activists throughout the Americas.


Book Events

Please stay tuned for information about an panel event planned for later this month at GW Law commemorating Black History Month with experts speaking about Professor Cottrol's book.

Monday, February 11
6:30pm
City Club of Washington
555 Thirteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC

The Yale Club hosts its double alumnus Professor Cottrol (Yale B.A. '71, PhD '78) for a talk and book signing. Please visit this link to learn more and to RSVP.


Reviews

"Cottrol's well-written book is a brilliant explication of the comparative treatment of persons of African ancestry in the western world. This is a must-read for those interested in the larger context of the black experience in the Western Hemisphere."
—Davison M. Douglas, author of Jim Crow Moves North: The Battle over Northern School Segregation, 1865–1954

"This book is an extremely important, groundbreaking work of comparative synthesis that will be a must-read for students of race in the United States as well as in Latin America. It will be the definitive book on the comparative history of race and law in the Americas."
—Ariela Gross, author of What Blood Won’t Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America

"A magisterial survey of the legal structures of race in the Americas from the 1500s through the present. Deftly comparing and contrasting Brazil, Spanish America, and the United States, Cottrol examines the legal underpinnings of racial inequality in those countries, the efforts over time to combat inequality, and the continuing challenges that all the societies of the Americas face in the twenty-first century. The result is a thoroughly impressive work of synthesis and comparison."
—George Reid Andrews, author of Afro-Latin America, 1800–2000

"This study is an impressively researched, cogently argued, and highly nuanced examination of the sharp divergence in socio-legal attitudes toward slavery and race across the hemisphere of the Americas. Cottrol's impeccable sensitivity to changing time, place, circumstances, and social mores makes this a significant contribution to the growing literature on an extraordinarily complex theme. It will be welcome among serious scholars across many academic disciplines."
—Franklin W. Knight, Stulman Professor of History and Director, Center for Africana Studies, Johns Hopkins University

"The legal history of slavery and race is a demanding subject, doubly so when pursued comparatively. Robert Cottrol rises to the challenge in this comprehensive and illuminating study of slavery, race, and law throughout the Americas, North and South. Spanning half a millennium—from the early modern era of Iberian and English colonization through the end of the twentieth century—Cottrol's sure-footed book patiently guides the reader through a long and frequently bitter story of the Americas’ many varieties of racial exploitation, exclusion, and reform. Though always sensitive to the distinct institutional trajectories that slavery imprinted on different European colonies and their successor states and to the cultural multiplicity of race and law, Cottrol determinedly pursues answers to the 'big' questions—how to account for different patterns of race relations; how to relate contemporary race to bygone slavery. His book confirms the wisdom of Frank Tannenbaum's observations, more than sixty years ago, that no matter where one encounters it, the history of slavery and race turns out to be largely a history of the laws that have structured both and that to study the histories of others is an excellent way to learn more about one’s own."
—Christopher Tomlins, Chancellor's Professor of Law at the University of California Irvine and author of Freedom Bound: Law, Labor and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America, 1580-1865

For more information and to order a copy of the book, please visit Amazon.com.


About the Author

Robert J. Cottrol is the Harold Paul Green Research Professor of Law and Professor of History and Sociology at the George Washington University. He has lectured extensively on U.S. law at universities in Argentina and Brazil. His books include The Afro-Yankees: Providence’s Black Community in the Antebellum Era and Brown v. Board of Education: Caste, Culture, and the Constitution (coauthored with Raymond T. Diamond and Leland B. Ware).