Ariela J. Gross is the John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History, and a co-director of the Center for Law, History, and Culture, at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana (2020) (with Alejandro de la Fuente), winner of the Order of the Coif Award for the best book on law and the John Philip Reid Book Award for Anglo-American legal history; What Blood Won't Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America (2008) which was named a Choice outstanding academic title, co-winner of the James Willard Hurst Prize, and winner of the Lillian Smith Award and the American Political Science Association's Best Book on Race, Ethnicity, and Politics; and Double Character: Slavery and Mastery in the Antebellum Southern Courtroom (2000). In 2021-22 she was the Joy Foundation Fellow at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, where she has been working on a book about the way the stories we tell about slavery and freedom have shaped constitutional law and politics. Gross’s work has been featured in popular media outlets, including the Washington Post, Zócalo Public Square, Lapham’s Quarterly, and El País.
Slavery is the touchstone for every discussion about blackness in the United States. What are the stories we tell about slavery to justify policies or politics in the present? This presentation looks at the way the history and memory of slavery reverberate through law, culture, and politics in debates about reparations, affirmative action, and other forms of redress for a past that lives on in the present.