Black Trials by Mark S. Weiner
Citizenship from the Beginnings of Slavery to the End of Caste

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   From a brilliant young legal scholar comes this sweeping history of American ideas of belonging and citizenship, told through the stories of fourteen legal cases that helped to shape our nation.
   Spanning three centuries, Black Trials details the legal challenges and struggles that helped define the ever-shifting identity of blacks in America. From the well-known cases of Plessy v. Ferguson and the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings to the more obscure trial of Joseph Hanno, an eighteenth-century free black man accused of murdering his wife and bringing smallpox to Boston, Weiner recounts the essential dramas of American identity—illuminating where our conception of minority rights has come from and where it might go. Significant and enthralling, these are the cases that forced the courts and the country to reconsider what it means to be black in America, and Mark Weiner demonstrates their lasting importance for our society.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Mark S. Weiner

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Mark S. Weiner teaches constitutional law and legal history at Rutgers School of Law in Newark, New Jersey. He is the author of Black Trials: Citizenship from the Beginnings of Slavery to the End of Caste, recipient of the Silver Gavel Award of the American Bar Association; and Americans without Law: The Racial Boundaries of Citizenship, recipient of the President's Book Award of the Social Science History Association. He lives with his wife in Connecticut. Learn more about Mark S. Weiner at his website,
Published December 18, 2007 by Vintage. 448 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Beginning with a disquisition on his general topic (with a tone and texture very much like a law school lecture: one can almost see the accompanying PowerPoint), Weiner then moves into a chronological examination of cases ranging from the 1721 murder trial of Joseph Hanno (convicted of killing hi...

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Publishers Weekly

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Using specific cases (such as those of the Amistad, the Scottsboro Boys, Black Panther Huey Newton and Mumia Abu-Jamal), he charts changes in Americans' civic inclusiveness—i.e., "what it means to be an American," and whether it includes blacks—and the long struggle for civic inclusiveness in th...

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Austin Chronicle

Among the interesting obscure cases are the trials of such figures as Caesar, aka John Gwin, a slave who was hung for conspiracy to revolt in 1741 in NYC, and Charles Green, who sued a theatre (which was, ironically, featuring a black choral group) in San Francisco in 1876, under the provisions o...

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