Resource Highlight: HeinOnline’s Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture, and Law

In case you haven’t read the news, scholarly research into slavery’s influence on our legal system is highly relevant to many ongoing debates. The law library can help with your research in many ways, but today I’m going to highlight HeinOnline’s Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture, and Law. Whether you are doing legal research that relates to slavery, or interdisciplinary research on other aspects of slavery that touches upon the law, this rich collection gathers a wide range of useful primary and secondary sources that might otherwise be cumbersome to identify and locate.

When it comes to primary legal sources, Slavery in America and the World aims to be comprehensive. It includes:

  • Every statute passed by every colony and state on slavery;
  • Every federal statute dealing with slavery; and
  • All reported state and federal cases.

The way the collection organizes these sources by jurisdiction and then presents them chronologically is obviously a great match for a research project focused on historical developments; however, even if the historical timeline itself is not a major focus of your research, this organization still provides some valuable context. It’s quite useful.

This database also cuts a wide swath when it comes to gathering primary historical sources (i.e., contemporary accounts of slavery). HeinOnline says it includes every pre-1920 English-language legal commentary on slavery, including many obscure articles and journals that are otherwise difficult to find. It supplements those legal commentaries with hundreds of newspapers and pamphlets discussing slavery from a variety of perspectives.

A photograph of former slaves in the time period following the Emancipation Proclamation.
Via wikimedia.

Slavery in America and the World also helps to contextualize this impressive range of primary sources with useful secondary materials. It includes a fairly thorough and relatively up-to-date collection of modern legal scholarship on slavery, as well as an extensive bibliography of books on the topic.

Slavery looms large over American history and American law, and there is no shortage of sources on the topic, which can make research feel overwhelming, even for the experienced researcher. Slavery in America and the World helps to make it more manageable by gathering so many of the most important resources in a single place and organizing them in an intuitive and approachable manner. If you are just getting started, the collection has a clear and easy-to-navigate LibGuide to help point you in the right direction. Of course, as with any of the GSU Law Library’s many resources, librarians are also here to help you use them effectively in your research.    

Breyer Retires: some helpful and interesting resources

As you surely know, Justice Breyer recently announced that he would be stepping down at the end of this term, setting another Supreme Court confirmation process in motion. However, you may not know how to further research Breyer’s legacy and SCOTUS confirmations.

Breyer Retires: some helpful  and interesting resources

Justice Breyer was well-liked by his colleagues and had a reputation for asking colorful hypotheticals from the bench. SCOTUSBlog has great coverage of his overall legacy, including many reminiscences from former clerks. Before his nomination to the federal bench, Breyer taught admin law, and some of the best scholarship on his SCOTUS tenure focuses on this subject, such as this Justice Stephen Breyer’s Contribution to Administrative Law symposium. During his nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, he (of course) wrote important opinions on a wide array of topics, often crafting compromises and creating nuanced balanced tests: the Congressional Research Service (CRS for short—you’ll be seeing a whole lot more of them in this post) recently published a nice overview of his jurisprudence.

To this writer, his most memorable opinion was in dissent, issued in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, a case that sharply limited desegregation efforts in public schools. I would encourage anyone who’s ever dismissed Justice Breyer as a bloodless technocrat to listen to him read what Justice Stevens called his “eloquent and unanswerable dissent” from the bench, asking “what happened to stare decisis?”

With Breyer’s imminent retirement, the appointment process for his successor begins. If you’d like to further explore that process, HeinOnline’s History of Supreme Court Nominations collects an impressive array of primary and secondary sources. Those sources include this excellent CRS report on what goes into the President’s selection of a nominee. There are also helpful CRS reports on the rest of the process, including one on the nominee’s consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee and another discussing the limitations and customs surrounding the questions Senators ask judicial nominees during confirmation hearings.

As you might expect, there is a plethora of scholarship on the appointment process. For a data-based deep-dive into nominations and confirmations from the institutional perspective of SCOTUS, you can’t beat The Supreme Court Compendium‘s chapter on the topic. The legal scholarship on this topic is voluminous, with law review articles exploring the original meaning of ‘advice and consent’ and analyzing SCOTUS confirmations from a historical perspective. Another major strain of scholarship analyzes the role of ideology or politics in the process, as well as the desirability of obscuring that role. Tackling the politics from another perspective, there are also quite a few articles discussing nominations within the context of the Court’s antidemocratic or countermajoritarian characteristics. Other legal scholarship approaches the topic from more oblique angles, with intriguing articles looking at confirmation hearings as “a valuable form of cultural expression” and elaborating on martial metaphors for the confirmation process.

In addition to the legal scholarship discussed above, there is a veritable ton of academic work on SCOTUS appointments taking place in other disciplines, especially political science. Scholars in that field have written interesting articles on topics such as the timing of nominations, the President’s constraints in choosing a nominee, the role of interest groups in nominations, the role of shared identity in public support for a nominee, and how contested nominations contribute to public polarization.

For a deeper dive, there are some great research guides out there that provide a more in-depth treatment of the many, many resources available on these topics. And, of course, if there are any resources on Justice Breyer’s retirement, or on SCOTUS appointments more generally, that you have found to be especially useful or interesting, be sure to let us know in the comments.