Kenneth W. Mack

Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law

Biography

Kenneth W. Mack is the inaugural Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law and Affiliate Professor of History at Harvard University. He is also the co-faculty leader of the Harvard Law School Program on Law and History. His 2012 book, Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer (Harvard University Press), was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, a National Book Festival Selection, was awarded honorable mention for the J. Willard Hurst Award by the Law and Society Association, and was a finalist for the Julia Ward Howe Book Award. He is also the co-editor of The New Black: What Has Changed – And What Has Not – With Race in America (New Press, 2013). His work has been published in the Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, Journal of American History, Law and History Review and other scholarly journals. In 2016-17, he was a Radcliffe Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. In 2007, he was named a Fletcher Fellow by the Fletcher Foundation. He has served as the co-director of the Workshops on “The History of Capitalism in the Americas” (2015-16) and “The Long Civil Rights Movement” (2008-09) at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University. He is currently working on a book project that examines the social and political history of race and political economy in the United States after 1975.

He has taught at Harvard, Stanford, and Georgetown Universities, and the University of Hawai’i, and has served as Senior Visiting Scholar, Centre for History and Economics at Cambridge University. In 2016, President Obama appointed him to the Permanent Committee for the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise. He is also a member of the American Law Institute. He began his professional career as an electrical engineer at Bell Laboratories before turning to law, and history. Before joining the faculty at Harvard Law School, he clerked for the Honorable Robert L. Carter, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and practiced law in the Washington, D.C. office of the firm, Covington & Burling.

Areas of Interest

Kenneth W. Mack, Civil Disobedience, State Action, and Lawmaking Outside the Courts: Robert Bell’s Encounter with American Law, 39 J. Sup. Ct. Hist. 347 (2014).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Government & Politics
,
Constitutional Law
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Fourteenth Amendment
,
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Supreme Court of the United States
,
Legal History
,
Legal Reform
,
Biography & Tribute
Type: Article
The New Black: What Has Changed--and What Has Not--with Race in America (Kenneth W. Mack & Guy-Uriel Charles eds., New Press 2012).
Categories:
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
Type: Book
Kenneth W. Mack, Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer (Harvard Univ. Press 2012).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Biography & Tribute
,
Legal Reform
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Kenneth W. Mack, The Two Modes of Inclusion, 129 Harv. L. Rev. F. 290 (2016).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Legal History
,
Legal Education
,
Legal Reform
Type: Article
Kenneth W. Mack, Book Review, 120 Am. Hist. Rev. 291 (2015) (reviewing Maurice C. Daniels, Saving the Soul of Georgia: Donald L. Hollowell and the Struggle for Civil Rights (2013)).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Biography & Tribute
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Kenneth W. Mack, Book Review, 120 Am. Hist. Rev. 291(2015) (reviewing Yvonne Ryan, Roy Wilkins: The Quiet Revolutionary and the NAACP (2014)).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Biography & Tribute
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Kenneth W. Mack, Foreword: A Short Biography of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 67 SMU L. Rev. 229 (2014).
Categories:
Discrimination & Civil Rights
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Civil Rights
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Kenneth W. Mack, Civil Rights History: The Old and the New, 126 Harv. L. Rev. F. 258 (2013) (Responding to Risa Goluboff, Lawyers, Law, and the New Civil Rights History, 126 Harv. L. Rev. 2312 (2013)).
Categories:
Discrimination & Civil Rights
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Civil Rights
,
Race & Ethnicity
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Abstract
This paper responds to Risa Goluboff's review of the author's book, Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer, and argues that civil rights history, and legal history more generally, has developed to the point where one may usefully distinguish between older approaches to socio-legal history that became mainstream in the late 1980s and 1990s, and newer approaches to the field that have developed in the succeeding years. Approaches to legal history that examine law, lawyers and legal consciousness as a mediating force between the formal legal system and the larger society have become so common in the field that they have lost their novelty. This paper frames Representing the Race as part of a newer corpus of writing that diverges somewhat from the core concerns of this older scholarship, and offers some observations on the future direction of legal history.
Kenneth W. Mack, Book Review, 99 J. Am. Hist. 1310 (2013) (reviewing Jacqueline A McLeod, Daughter of the Empire State: The Life of Judge Jane Bolin (2011)).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Gender & Sexuality
,
Biography & Tribute
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Kenneth W. Mack, Law and Local Knowledge in the History of the Civil Rights Movement, 125 Harv. L. Rev. 1018 (2012) (reviewing Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement (2011)).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Government & Politics
,
Constitutional Law
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Supreme Court of the United States
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Kenneth W. Mack, Dissent and Authenticity in the History of American Racial Politics, in Dissenting Voices in American Society: The Role of Judges, Lawyers and Citizens 105 (Austin Sarat ed., 2012).
Categories:
Discrimination & Civil Rights
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Legal History
,
Legal & Political Theory
Type: Book
Abstract
Dissenting Voices in American Society: The Role of Judges, Lawyers, and Citizens explores the status of dissent in the work and lives of judges, lawyers, and citizens, and in our institutions and culture.
Kenneth W. Mack, Bringing the Law Back into the History of the Civil Rights Movement, 27 Law & Hist. Rev. 657 (2009).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Abstract
This paper uses a review of Nancy MacLean's FREEDOM IS NOT ENOUGH: THE OPENING OF THE AMERICAN WORKPLACE (2008), to challenge historians to re-integrate law and legal institutions into the civil rights history. It critiques recent work in the social history of the civil rights movement for ignoring litigation and legal institutions, and/or regarding them as an impediment to social movement organization. Recent political-science inspired work that examines civil rights history, by contrast, has focused on the Supreme Court rather than social movement organization. The paper argues that recent work by Risa Goluboff, David Engstrom, Sophia Lee, Paul Frymer, and Kenneth Mack points the way for scholars in reorienting the legal history of the civil rights movement away from the NAACP's school desegregation campaign and toward the struggle for economic citizenship. As such, the paper argues, such work provides a model for re-integrating law into the social history of the civil rights movement.
Kenneth W. Mack, The Role of Law in the Making of Racial Identity: The Case of Harrisburg's W. Justin Carter, 18 Widener L.J. 1 (2008).
Categories:
Civil Practice & Procedure
,
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Legal History
,
Biography & Tribute
Type: Article
Kenneth W. Mack, Law and Mass Politics in the Making of the Civil Rights Lawyer, 1931-1942, 93 J. Am. Hist. 37 (2006).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Government & Politics
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Supreme Court of the United States
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Kenneth W. Mack, Rethinking Civil Rights Lawyering and Politics in the Era Before Brown, 115 Yale L. J. 256 (2005).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Government & Politics
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Supreme Court of the United States
,
Legal History
,
Legal Education
Type: Article
Abstract
This Article argues that scholarly accounts of civil rights lawyering and politics have emphasized, incorrectly, a narrative that begins with Plessy v. Ferguson and ends with Brown v. Board of Education. That traditional narrative has relied on a legal liberal view of civil rights politics--a view that focuses on court-based and rights-centered public law litigation. That narrative has, in turn, generated a revisionist literature that has critiqued legal liberal politics. This Article contends that both the traditional and revisionist works have focused on strains of civil rights politics that appear to anticipate Brown, and thus have suppressed alternative visions of that politics. This Article attempts to recover these alternatives by analyzing the history of civil rights lawyering between the First and Second World Wars. It recovers debates concerning intraracial African-American identity and anti-segregation work, lawyers' work and social change, rights-based advocacy and legal realism, and the legal construction of racial and economic inequality that have been elided in the existing literature. It thus contends that the scholarly inquiries that have been generated in both the traditional and the revisionist work should be reframed.
Kenneth W. Mack, A Social History of Everyday Practice: Sadie T.M. Alexander and the Incorporation of Black Women into the American Legal Profession, 1925-1960, in Lawyers' Ethics and the Pursuit of Social Justice: A Critical Reader 92 (Susan D. Carle ed., 2005).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Gender & Sexuality
,
Biography & Tribute
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Kenneth W. Mack, A Social History of Everyday Practice: Sadie T.M. Alexander and the Incorporation of Black Women into the American Legal Profession, 1925-1960, in Critical Race Feminism: A Reader 91 (Adrien Katherine Wing ed., 2d ed. 2003).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Gender & Sexuality
,
Discrimination
,
Feminist Legal Theory
,
Biography & Tribute
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Kenneth W. Mack, A Social History of Everyday Practice: Sadie T.M. Alexander and the Incorporation of Black Women into the American Legal Profession, 1925-1960, 87 Cornell L. Rev. 1405 (2002).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Gender & Sexuality
,
Discrimination
,
Legal History
,
Biography & Tribute
Type: Article
Abstract
This Article presents a humanist social history of the everyday professional lives of Sadie T.M Alexander and her peers at the early twentieth century black women's bar, contending that a finely-detailed analysis of quotidian law practice reveals the methodological limitations of the reigning interpretations of the history of the American bar during this period. Alexander and her peers' professional lives were hemmed in by race- and gender-based structural features of the bar, as the received interpretations of the period would predict, but those professional lives were also shaped by an under-theorized social milieu of race and class formation, gender role contestation, lawyer-client conflict, and day-to-day professional relationships. That social milieu would provide Alexander and her peers with tools that would enable them to obtain a surprising, and often ironic, degree of power and prestige in the profession-surprising, at least, from the perspective of the dominant interpretive paradigm for the bar in this period.
Kenneth W. Mack, Law, Society, Identity and the Making of the Jim Crow South: Travel and Segregation on Tennessee Railroads, 1875-1905, 24 Law & Soc. Inquiry 377 (1999).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Race & Ethnicity
,
Civil Rights
,
Legal History
Type: Article
Abstract
This article reexamines the well-known debate over the origins and timing of the advent of de jure segregation in the American South that began in 1955 with the publication of C. Vann Woodward's The Strange Career of Jim Crow. Arguing that the terms of the debate over Woodward's thesis implicate familiar but outmoded ways of looking at socio-legal change and Southern society, the article proposes a reorientation of this debate using theoretical perspectives taken from recent work by legal historians, critical race theorists, and historians of race, class and gender. This article examines the advent of railroad segregation in Tennessee (the state that enacted America's first railroad segregation statute) in order to sketch out these themes, arguing that de jure segregation was brought about by a dialectic between legal, social and identity-based phenomena. This dialectic did not die out the the coming of de jure segregation, but rather continued into the modern era.