Forced Communities: Rural School Consolidation & Urban School Desegregation
I am in early stages of research for this article, which will put into conversation the better-known legal history of urban school desegregation with the lesser-known legal history of rural school consolidation. Although rural school consolidation was, and continues to be, a central recurring issue for rural local governments, the efforts to reorganize school districts through state-wide legislation in states like Kansas during the 1960s and 1970s reveal how both consolidation and desegregation were intertwined. Legal decisions, legislation, and education policy culminated in the creation of new twentieth-century social and physical communities in both urban and rural spaces. The debates surrounding both school consolidation and desegregation reveal not only how central schools are to community identity, but also how legal resolutions to issues of inequities in education quality—in both rural and urban communities—were forced to confront non-legal political and social questions of who belongs in a community and who gets to define community boundaries.
Winks, Whispers, and Prosecutorial Discretion in Rural Iowa, 1925-1928
Through the eyes of Charles Pendleton’s memoirs, this article explores the use of prosecutorial discretion in one rural county in 1920s Iowa. Rural communities like those in Buena Vista County, Iowa, experienced “the law” through distinctly isolated geographies and social networks that lacked anonymity and thus shaped available methods of conflict resolution. Colin Johnson has called this lack of anonymity, “onymousness—their named-ness and known-ness,” and it altered patterns of dispute and dispute resolution in small communities. But onymity did not mean homogeneity. Ethnic, racial, and religious diversity created divisions within a community where social distance between individuals was small. Both onymity and diversity shaped who should have access to which type of sanctions and remedies. Some transgressions of the law did not always align with transgressions of social norms. In those cases, illustrated most clearly in bootlegging, Pendleton’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion adhered closely to the letter of the law. In other cases, social transgressions did align with legal transgressions, but often formal legal processes were not triggered in response. Sorting out some of the ways rural social networks informed these discretionary decisions is the aim of this article.
Law & Laundry: White Laundresses, Chinese Laundrymen, and the Origins of Muller v. Oregon
*Forthcoming from Studies in Law, Politics, and Society in 2020.
This article uses the historian’s method of micro-history to rethink the significance of the Supreme Court decision Muller v. Oregon (1908). Typically considered a labor law decision permitting the regulation of women’s work hours, the article argues that through particular attention to the specific context in which the labor dispute took place—the laundry industry in Portland, Oregon—the Muller decision and underlying conflict should be understood as not only about sex-based labor rights but also about how the labor of laundry specifically involved race-based discrimination. The article investigates the most important conflicts behind the Muller decision, namely the entangled histories of white laundresses’ labor and labor activism in Portland, as well as the labor of their competitors—Chinese laundrymen. In so doing, the article offers an intersectional reading of Muller that incorporates regulations on Chinese laundries and places the decision in conversation with a long line of anti-Chinese laundry legislation on the West Coast, including that at issue in Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886).