Episode 4: Al Brophy

Charles Zelden's picture


Loading Video...

In “University, Court and Slave: Pro-Slavery Thought in Southern Colleges and Courts and the Coming of Civil War, Alfred L. Brophy Judge John J. Parker Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law, brings to life the dynamic interplay between law and culture by mapping out the crisscrossing intellectual paths between southern courts and universities in the mid-nineteenth century. Brophy discusses the pro-slavery polemics that were delivered by southern lawyers, judges, and politicians to university students. At the same time, pro-slavery ideas fomented in the academy heavily influenced judicial reasoning in southern courtrooms. An important corollary to this exploration of intellectual history is exposure to some of the horrors endured by enslaved people living on university campuses. For example, the work discusses a trial surrounding the University of Mississippi's expulsion of a student accused of sexually assaulting an enslaved woman owned by the school's Chancellor. As Brophy’s work unfolds we see pro-slavery ideas fostered in the academy and solidified in the courtroom, building upon each other and creating a southern culture that was becoming more pro-slavery over time. By 1860 Southerners were convinced that the rule of a slave-based property law system was a necessary central core of their society. Ultimately, this cultural identity, cultivated in courts and universities, pushed Southerners to take action to leave the Union in a futile attempt to preserve slavery. 

                                                                                                                             --Siobhan Barco


:45                         Author Background

3:00                      How Brophy came to write University, Court & Slave              

7:39                      Nat Turner’s Rebellion as key turning point in pro-slavery discourse

16:01                   A discussion of some of the ideas circulating through Southern Universities in the 1840s and 1850s

23:17                    What literary and graduation addresses given by politicians, lawyers, and judges reveal about the interaction of schools with other parts of southern elite culture

27:28                   The debate undertaken in a series of letters between Brown University President Francis Wayland and Richard Fuller 

32:50                    The trial the University of Mississippi’s Board of Trustees conducted of Chancellor F.A.P. Barnard

41:38                   How pro-slavery ideas left the ivory tower and turned into actions in the Senate’s debate over the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

43:18                   Jurisprudence of sentiment and how an analysis of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s work helps us understand southern jurists

46:20                   How abolitionist legal thinker William Goodell’s approach differed from Harriet Beecher Stowe and Frederick Douglass’s abolitionist approaches

48:52                   Does an analysis of Judge Ruffin’s jurisprudence align with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s portrayal of him?

52:28                   Some examples of ways a treatise writer in Georgia blended pro-slavery ideas, moral philosophy, and ideas about economics in his writings

1:00:38               What the ways enslaved people sought freedom through wills and through travel to free States, reveals about support for slavery

1:04:40               The role academics and their arguments played in the discussion of secession

1:09:24               How capitalism lead to the growth of pro-slavery sentiment in the South

1:11:25               The interplay between law and culture demonstrated in University, Court and Slave

1:15:20               What Brophy is working on now

1:19:02               The present as great time to study the legal history of race and slavery