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Litigating Across the Color LineCivil Cases Between Black and White Southerners from the End of Slavery to Civil Rights$
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Melissa Milewski

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190249182

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190249182.001.0001

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The Law of Bodily Injury

The Law of Bodily Injury

(p.144) 7 The Law of Bodily Injury
Litigating Across the Color Line

Melissa Milewski

Oxford University Press

Chapter 7 examines the personal injury suits that formed almost half of the civil suits between black and white litigants in eight state supreme courts from 1900 to 1920. Facing terrible pain and loss in the wake of their own or loved one’s injuries, some African Americans turned to the courts to gain damages. There, in a time of encroaching segregation and racial injustice, a number of black litigants found disproportionate success in the realm of tort litigation. During their trials, black litigants shaped their testimony to meet the legal basis of personal injury, emphasizing their own caution at the time of the accident, their continuing pain and weakness from the injury, and the loss of income they had incurred. As in fraud cases, their claims of weakness and vulnerability could reinforce white judges’ and jury members’ ideas about racial inequality, but also allowed them to frequently win such suits.

Keywords:   Personal injury, law, civil case, African American, railroad, accident, trial, court, tort, Jim Crow

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