Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects



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John Marshall Harlan, a Kentuckian who served on the United States Supreme Court from 1877 to 1911, was often the only Justice who supported the civil and political rights of African Americans. His jurisprudence was interesting because it combined traditional elements of the Court's Gilded Age views and fundamental ideas of mid-twentieth-century judicial race philosophy. The events that reshaped Harian's race philosophy illustrate how he made the transition from slave owner to defender of individual rights. Significant to his judicial ideology was his interpretation of dual federalism and the intent of the framers of the Civil War Amendments. While the majority of the Court defined these concepts very narrowly, Harlan used a more liberal approach. By addressing the criticisms of his record, by investigating his pre-Supreme Court days in Kentucky, and by surveying his record in cases involving African American rights, one can readily conclude that Harlan deserves his reputation as a champion of civil rights.



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