Weiner, Mark S(tuart)
WEINER, Mark S(tuart)
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Rutgers School of Law—Newark, Center for Law and Justice, 123 Washington St., Newark, NJ 07102. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Law professor and writer. Rutgers School of Law, Newark, NJ, associate professor of law.
AWARDS, HONORS: Presidents Book Award, Social Science History Association, for manuscript Americans without Law: A History of Race, Anthropology, and Citizenship. Jacob J. Javits fellowship, Department of Education; Samuel I. Golieb fellowship in legal history, New York University School of Law; National Endowment for Humanities fellowship.
Black Trials: Citizenship from the Beginnings ofSlavery to the End of Caste, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, American Expansion, and the Constitution, edited by Christina Burnett and Burke Marshall, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2001; Slavery and Abolition, 2002; and Food in the USA: A Reader, edited by Carole Counihan. Also contributor to American Quarterly.
SIDELIGHTS: A teacher of constitutional law, legal history, and legal ethics, Mark S. Weiner is also the author of Black Trials: Citizenship from the Beginnings of Slavery to the End of Caste. In the book, Weiner provides an historical and social critique that traces almost 400 years of black history in America. He primarily focuses on the most notable legal episodes that guided African Americans from slavery to their status as citizens, a progression that led to the reconsideration of the place of blacks in society. However, before he delves into specific trials, Weiner looks at the early history of how blacks were viewed and understood. In Puritan culture, some regarded blacks as viable members of a Christian community, with the equal right to enter the legal system in terms of contracts and services. This early outlook changed dramatically as slavery became more central to economic life in North America.
Among the legal cases Weiner discusses is the legendary 1859 trial of John Brown, an abolitionist who was eventually hanged for raiding the U.S. government's arsenal at Harpers Ferry to get weapons for an army of insurgent slaves. He also examines the Amistad trial of 1840, the Ku Klux Klan trials of South Carolina in 1871, early civil rights cases in the 1880s, Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the Huey Newton/Black Panther trial in California in 1968, and Clarence Thomas's Supreme Court confirmation proceedings in Washington, D.C., in 1991. One of the earliest trials he discusses is the "Great Negro Plot" of 1741, in which a white man and a black slave were hung from a tree in lower Manhattan for supposedly participating in a plot in which slaves would revolt and massacre whites and burn New York City. According to Weiner, the trial was merely a show of due process and the public hanging, like so many others, served to consolidate the caste system in New York.
Writing in the Washington Post, Bryan K. Fair noted, "These fascinating dramas lay bare the legal and extralegal devices used to make Americans with darker skin second-caste citizens compared with self-aggrandizing whites committed to their racial dominance." Justin Driver, writing in the New Republic, felt that Weiner's book has faults, including the author's placing too much "weight on religion's role in motivating change than it can credibly be expected to bear" and his "discussion of social science relied upon by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education." Driver also felt that Weiner's description of the "modern racial landscape appears myopic." Nevertheless, he also praised the book, noting, "At his best, Weiner adopts a clear-eyed and unromanticized approach to black history, one that is all too often lacking in the field." He also noted that the author "is particularly strong when dismissing the claims of some scholars who contend that the status of blacks in America over the last half-century has been marked more by continuity than by change." A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Black Trials contains "well-researched and cogent discussions of how legal cases involving blacks tell us much about the evolving notion of American citizenship." Thomas J. Davis, writing in the Library Journal, stated "This work harkens back to Kay Stannard Baker's 1908 classic Following the Color Line: An Account of Negro Citizenship in the American Democracy and Judith N. Shklar's 1991 American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion and may come to rank with both." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book the "best of its kind."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Lawyer, March 1, 200, Susan Beck, review of Black Trials: Citizenship from the Beginnings of Slavery to the End of Caste.
Austin Chronicle, October 8, 2004, Roger Gathman, review of Black Trials.
Booklist, October 1, 2004, Vernon Ford, review of Black Trials, p. 288.
Decatur Daily, November 14, 2004, John Davis, review of Black Trials.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2004, review of BlackTrials, p. 856.
Library Journal, November 1, 2004, Thomas J. Davis, review of Black Trials, p. 108.
New Republic, November 2,, 2004, Justin Driver, review of Black Trials, p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, August 16, 2004, review of BlackTrials, p. 52.
Washington Post, January 5, 2005, Bryan K. Fair, review of Black Trials, p. C4.
Rutgers University—Newark Web Site,http://www.newark.rutgers.edu/ (February 11, 2005), "Mark S. Weiner."