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DJS 221. Law and Equality in Historical Perspective. 3 Credits.

Americans hold equality to be one of the central principles of our democracy. Our Declaration of Independence articulates the ideal that "all men are created equal." And our courts are intended to embody the principle that justice is blind - all are to be equal before the law. At the same time, our nation has embraced profound legal inequalities from the moment of its inception - most conspicuously in the law of slavery, but also in the legal regimes that governed the status of women, immigrants, wage earners, Native Americans, and others. This course examines the ideal of legal equality in historical perspective, beginning with the colonial era and ending in the present day. In units on the law of personal status, the impact of the Fourteenth Amendment, ideals of citizenship and belonging, and modern civil rights, we will investigate how Americans from the colonial era to the modern era have understood their legal rights and obligations to one another. We will investigate transformations in the legal meaning of citizenship and civil rights over time and consider the terms in which we uphold "equality" in our own historical moment.