Sally Greene, who was recently reelected to the Chapel Hill Town Council by a very large margin, and Blogger and Law Professor Eric Muller will be featured on WUNC’s State of Things at noon on Thursday (November 15) talking about the subject of their upcoming conference “The Perils of Public Homage: Thomas Ruffin and State v. Mann in History and Memory”.

The conference to be held on Friday November 16 from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. in the Dialectic Chambers of the Di Phi Society atop of New West, Cameron Ave., UNC-CH Campus is described below and at the Center for the Study of the American South. A complete schedule with speakers biographies and other material is here.

The memory of antebellum North Carolina Supreme Court Judge Thomas Ruffin looms large both on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where a dormitory bears his name, and in the state’s capital, where a statue of the judge greets visitors to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Across North Carolina, Ruffin, who served as chief justice from 1833 to 1852, is considered the greatest jurist in the state’s history. Remarkably, in the popular mind his reputation has not appreciably suffered for his authorship of State v. Mann (1830), the most notorious judicial opinion in the history of American slave law. In that decision, Ruffin held that North Carolina law insulated the renter of a slave from criminal prosecution for shooting her in the back. “The power of the master must be absolute,” wrote the judge, “to render the submission of the slave perfect.”

On Friday, November 16, experts in the law of slavery and the study of public memory will gather on the UNC campus to reconsider the position of Thomas Ruffin and State v. Mann within our historical legacy. Convening in the restored Dialectic Chambers of the Di Phi Society in New West, these scholars will take the judge and his work as points of departure for exploring the difficulties of remembering prominent people who supported systems of oppression.

Speakers will include legal scholars Sanford Levinson, Mark Tushnet, Al Brophy, Adrienne Davis, Sally Greene, and Eric Muller, historians Laura Edwards and David Loewenthal, philosopher Bernard Boxill, and North Carolina Court of Appeals Judge James A. Wynn, Jr.

The event, which will get under way at 9 a.m. and continue until 4:30 p.m. with a break for lunch, is jointly sponsored by the University of North Carolina School of Law, the Center for the Study of the American South, and the UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities. It is free and open to the public.

Sally, Eric and Sanford Levinson “Rethinking Ruffin” on State of Things here.

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