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A Personal Odyssey Toward a Theme: Race and Equality in the United States: 1948–2009


  • In opening my Presidential Address I thanked numbers of people for they help they gave me and for their service to the Association. These include our Executive Office staff: Ron Pipkin, Lissa Ganter, Mary McClintock, and Judy Rose; the co-chairs of the Program Committees during my two-year term: Annie Bunting, Marie Provine, Nancy Reichman, and Joyce Sterling; past Presidents Malcolm Feeley and Howie Erlanger; Review editor Carroll Seron, new editor search committee chair Joe Sanders, and all those who served as LSA Committee chairs or Trustees during my term as president. I thank you all again.


This 2009 Law & Society Association presidential address combines the personal and political to address issues relating to race relations in the United States. Combining narrative methods and quantitative data the article traces the roots of the author's commitment to racial equality and evaluates the degree to which over the past 60 years anti-black prejudice has diminished and black-white equality increased. The conclusion is that important progress toward black-white equality has occurred and prejudice is less of a barrier than it once was, but large gaps remain, and the progress achieved is fragile. Moreover, the greatest progress is in areas where the government has most strongly intervened, meaning that the racial jurisprudence of the current Supreme Court and conservative economic policies may present major impediments to further closing black-white gaps. Law and society scholars are urged to attend more to racial equality issues than they have in the past.