W. Burlette Carter

Burlette Carter
Professor of Law
2000 H Street, NW
Washington, District Of Columbia 20052
[email protected]

A graduate of the Harvard Law School and Agnes Scott College, Professor W. Burlette Carter entered law teaching after a career as a litigation attorney with the law firm of Hughes, Hubbard & Reed. Her scholarship offers solutions to contemporary problems by viewing the problems through the lens of history. She takes an interdisciplinary approach, rejecting the notion of viewing law or history through the lens of artificially separated legal subject matters. As a result, her scholarship is wide-ranging. Her writings have touched upon the regulation of intercollegiate athletics, the history of legal education, religion and law, the nation’s legacy of race discrimination against black “chattle slaves” and its effects, gender and sexual orientation discrimination, trusts and estates, family law, and constitutional law. In 2013, she published the first article analyzing in-depth the Supreme Court’s historic decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Her most recent scholarly work is a multi-volume set on the history of those who crossed gender lines as reflected in American newspapers. It is called“Strange:” Sexual Minorities, Cross-dressers and Others “Outed” in the American News, 1723-1910, and publication of the first two volumes is expected by June 30, 2015. 

She is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia, a retired but registered member of the bar of the State of New York, and a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court. She authored her own amicus brief (in support of neither party) in the 2015 Supreme Court cases that considered the question of whether states had to recognize same-sex marriages. (Obergefell, et al.) Her brief drew heavily from research in her books in progress, “Strange . . . .” That research established for the first time that the founders actually knew about same-sex marriages. It provided important new history on the treatment of those marriages under law both locally and under conflict of law principles. Finally, it also provided important background on the history of black African chattle slaves in America (who are among Professor Carter’s descendants) and their battle for the right to marry and protect their families, offering both key distinctions and parallels to the same-sex marriage cases before the Court. No other party or amicus in that national litigation had raised these issues in any prior court at any level.

Professor Carter is a past chair of the Section on Law and Sports of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) and has served on numerous committees of the Section on Litigation of American Bar Association. She was born in Denmark, South Carolina.

Curriculum Vitae     Publications


BA, Agnes Scott College; JD, Harvard University

In the News

“Column: Bipartisan Accord Ushers in the Era of the Gender-Neutral Public Toilet"

July 30, 2019

W. Burlette Carter's research on the history of gendered bathrooms was mentioned by the Chicago Tribune.

"The Incredible True Story of the Oscar Everyone Thought Had Literally Been Stolen"

March 02, 2018

W. Burlette Carter is mentioned in Mother Jones for her research into the whereabouts of Hattie McDaniel's Oscar. 

"Inside the Complicated Legacy of Hattie McDaniel, the First Black Oscar Winner"

February 22, 2018

W. Burlette Carter is quoted in Entertainment Weekly about the meaning behind Hattie McDaniel's Oscar.