Legal Historian to Lecture on Supreme Court

Highly-esteemed legal historian and Gratz College President Paul Finkelman will discuss his book Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 from 6 PM until 7:30 PM at The Wright.

Finkelman’s book explores how the personal lives and opinions of Supreme Court justices contributed to opinions that upheld slavery. Finkelman exposes Chief Justice John Marshall as a slave owner who never wrote an opinion that supported the liberation of enslaved people nor efforts to punish slave traders. According to Finkelman, Justice Joseph Story was an early opponent of slavery who later became a consistent supporter of human bondage, even ignoring precedents and overriding Constitutional challenges to uphold opinions that kept slavery intact. The book also examines Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who wrote passionate opinions in defense of slavery that Finkelman writes, “lacked any theoretical mooring.”

The lecture is one of 13 programs that are being presented as companions to the museum’s exhibit, “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty.” The Monticello exhibit explores the lives and legacies of six enslaved families at Monticello, Jefferson’s famed Virginia plantation, and probes how Thomas Jefferson’s status as a person who enslaved 600 humans undermines his vaunted position in history as a champion of individual liberty.

Judge Denise Page Hood, chief judge of the United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, will introduce Finkelman. The lecture will be followed by a question and answer session and a book signing.

The event is free and open the public.

Media Contact

Edward Foxworth III, Director of External Affairs, 313-494-5863,