‘Erasing Slavery’ will be topic of upcoming Natchez Historical Society meeting

Published 11:56 am Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Dr. Ariela Gross, distinguished professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law, will talk about slavery and its impact on the rule of law at the Tuesday, May 28 meeting of the Natchez Historical Society.

The meeting is free to the public and will be held at the Historic Natchez Foundation, 108 S. Commerce St., in Natchez.

It will begin with a social at 5:30 p.m. and Gross’ presentation at 6 p.m. Gross’ lecture is titled, “Erasing Slavery – How Stories of Slavery and Freedom (in Natchez) Shape Battles Over the Constitution.”

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Gross said she has spent a significant amount of time doing research in Natchez.

“Just as monuments and plantation tours have presented a version of history that erased the experience of slavery and Black agency in ending slavery and as many legislatures are trying to erase slavery and racism from the teaching of US history, the Supreme Court has tried to erase slavery from the memory of the Constitution,” she said.

“By putting slavery in the deep past and portraying freedom as a gift from white people to Black people, they deny the continuing legacies of slavery and the responsibility to redress them,” she noted. “I’m trying to make the connections between the way we are telling these histories in local culture and politics in places like Natchez, and how history is shaping our constitutional law.”
Alan Wolf, who serves as a director of the society and its program chair, said that Gross is one of the nation’s most accomplished and respected scholars of legal history.

“Dr. Gross will describe how disputed narratives we tell about slavery and emancipation, for example through monuments, memorials, films, novels, and tourist sites, shape the environment in which Constitutional law is determined,” Wolf said.

As a professor, Gross teaches Contract Law, Constitutional Law, Enslavement and Racialization in U.S. Legal History and other courses on race and legal history.

She is “a legal historian whose scholarship focuses on the ways race, racism, and slavery have shaped law, politics, and culture in the Americas,” according to her online bio.

Gross is a graduate of Harvard College and Stanford Law School. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy at Stanford University.

She has served as a visiting professor at Stanford Law School, Tel Aviv University, and Kyoto University, among others.

In addition to being a well-respected professor, Gross is a prolific writer. The list of books that she has authored includes “Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana” with Alejandro de la Fuente” (Cambridge University Press, 2020); “What Blood Won’t Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America” (Harvard University Press, 2008); and “Double Character: Slavery and Mastery in the Antebellum Southern Courtroom (Princeton University Press, 2000).

 This program is funded in part by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council, through funding by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 For more information, visit natchezhistoricalsociety.org or call 601-492-3004. Emails may be sent to info@natchezhistoricalsociety.org