09 May 2019

BOOK: Joseph A. RANNEY, A legal history of Mississippi: Race, Class, and the Struggle for Opportunity (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2019). ISBN 9781496822574, $50.00

The University Press of Mississippi is publishing a book on the legal history of the state of Mississippi.


In A Legal History of Mississippi: Race, Class, and the Struggle for Opportunity, legal scholar Joseph A. Ranney surveys the evolution of Mississippi's legal system and analyzes the ways in which that system has changed during the state's first two hundred years. Through close research, qualitative analysis, published court decisions, statutes, and law review articles, along with unusual secondary sources including nineteenth-century political and legal journals and journals of state constitutional conventions, Ranney indicates how Mississippi law has both shaped and reflected the state's character and, to a certain extent, how Mississippi's legal evolution compares with that of other states.

Ranney examines the interaction of Mississippi law and society during key periods of change including the colonial and territorial eras and the early years of statehood when the legal foundations were laid; the evolution of slavery and slave law in Mississippi; the state's antebellum role as a leader of Jacksonian legal reform; the unfolding of the response to emancipation and wartime devastation during Reconstruction and the early Jim Crow era; Mississippi's legal evolution during the Progressive Era and its legal response to the crisis of the Great Depression; and the legal response to the civil rights revolution of the mid-twentieth century and the cultural revolutions of the late twentieth century.

Histories of the law in other states are starting to appear, but there is none for Mississippi. Ranney fills that gap to help us better understand the state as it enters its third century.


JOSEPH A. RANNEY teaches legal history as adjunct professor at Marquette University Law School and is partner in the Madison, Wisconsin, law firm of DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C. In addition to numerous articles on American legal history, he is author of In the Wake of Slavery: Civil War, Civil Rights, and the Reconstruction of Southern Law. His Trusting Nothing to Providence: A History of Wisconsin's Legal System was honored by the American Library Association as a notable book on state and local government.

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