my interest in the effects of facially neutral economic regulations on
African Americans was first stirred by a lecture by economist Jennifer
Roback Morse at the Cato Institute during the summer of 1998. Her
article, ‘‘Southern Labor Law in the Jim Crow Era: Exploitative or Com-
petitive?’’ 51 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1161 (1984), directly inspired my research
on emigrant agent laws, which eventually became chapter 1 of this book.
A cryptic note in my first-semester law school constitutional law case-
book, Paul Brest and Sanford Levinson, Processes of Constitutional Deci-
sionmaking (Little, Brown 1988), asking how to reconcile the holding of
Plessy v. Ferguson with the holding of Lochner v. New York, encouraged
me to explore how constitutional law decisions on economic regulation
affected African Americans.
During the second semester of my first year at Yale Law School, Pro-
fessor Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr. agreed to supervise an independent study
project on economic regulation and African Americans. He strongly sug-
gested that I investigate whether prounion legislation negatively affected
African Americans. Geoff certainly put me on the right track, as evi-
denced by chapters 2–5 of this book.
I continued my research throughout law school on how labor regula-
tions affected African Americans. My Yale Law Journal note, published
as ‘‘The Supreme Court and ‘Civil Rights,’ 1886–1908,’’ can be consid-
ered something of a prologue to my later work on race and legal history.
Special thanks are due Alex Azar for his role in facilitating publication of
that note. An ‘‘intensive semester’’ spent at the Landmark Legal Founda-
tion Center for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., supervised by Professor
Paul Gewirtz, gave me the opportunity to investigate the history of the
Davis-Bacon Act, the subject of chapter 4 of this book.
During my last semester of law school, I had the good fortune to take a