Finkelman to analyze Lincoln's legacy during Wilson lecture on Nov. 14

November 8, 2012Duke Law News

Paul Finkelman

Professor Paul Finkelman will examine Abraham Lincoln’s legacy as “The Great Emancipator” when he delivers Duke University’s Robert R. Wilson Lecture on Nov. 14. Finkelman, the John Hope Franklin Visiting Professor of American Legal History,  will analyze Lincoln’s actions and public statements about emancipation as the country slid into war and the president’s position on emancipation gradually aligned with that of abolitionists.

Finkelman’s lecture, entitled "How a Railroad Lawyer Became the Great Emancipator: Abraham Lincoln, and the Problem of Ending Slavery," will begin at 12:15 p.m. in room 3041 of Duke Law School, 210 Towerview Road, on Duke’s West Campus.  The lecture is free and open to the public; parking is available at Duke’s Bryan Center. A light lunch will be served on a first-come, first-served basis. 

“Does Lincoln deserve his reputation as ‘The Great Emancipator’? What does the historical record actually show? These are the kinds of questions I’m interested in,” says Finkelman, who is visiting Duke Law School in the fall 2012 semester from Albany Law School where he is the President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy and Senior Fellow at the Government Law Center.

A former student of Professor Franklin’s at the University of Chicago, Finkelman focuses his scholarship and frequent public commentary on legal history, constitutional law, and race and the law.   His recent commentary on Lincoln’s political strategy regarding emancipation has appeared in the New York Times.  Other recent publications include Justice and Legal Change on the Shores of Lake Erie: A History of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, co-edited with Roberta Sue Alexander (Ohio University Press 2012), and the introduction to Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States 1889-1918 (Lawbook Exchange, 2012).

Franklin, who died in 2009, was the James B. Duke Emeritus Professor of History at Duke University; he also taught legal history at Duke Law School from 1985 until 1992. In addition to publishing such influential works as From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, Franklin was a significant figure in the civil rights movement; among his many activities he was part of the Brown v. Board of Education legal team, joined protestors in a 1965 march led by Martin Luther King, Jr. in Montgomery, Ala., and chaired President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race.

The John Hope Franklin Chair was established in 2009 to honor Franklin and his tenure as a professor of legal history at Duke Law School. Gifts from Duke Law alumnus William Louis Dreyfus ’57, The Duke Endowment, and several other donors helped to endow the chair. The Law School awards the chair on a visiting basis to a distinguished scholar until a permanent appointment is made. The lecture is sponsored by the Robert R. Wilson Fund at Duke University.

The lecture will be webcast on the Duke Law Ustream channel.