Black arts and good law: Literary arguments for racial justice in the time of Plessy

Imani Perry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In this article, the author demonstrates how late 19th Century writers who advocated for racial equality used the concepts of symmetry and equality, as represented in the 14th amendment, to argue that racial justice was beautiful - philosophically as well as politically, and to argue for constitutional interpretations which advanced racial justice. This is read as a species of argumentative formalism, nonetheless bearing political goals. In identifying this practice, the author hopes to enrich conversations about the conflict between abstract legal principles, and the belief that law is a product of social and political realities, as it relates to race, by demonstrating that the abstraction of law was appealing and even useful in historic struggles for racial equality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-97
Number of pages28
JournalLaw, Culture and the Humanities
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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