Racial Justice in the 20th Century United States and South Africa – Fall 2017

Course numbers: AAAS 346S, HISTORY 396S, ICS 351S, POLSCI 336S, PUBPOL 326S

Course attributes: CCI, R, W, CZ, SS

Course description:

In 1966, Robert Kennedy gave a speech to thousands of University of Cape Town students.  He began with something of a history lesson.  “I came here because of my deep interest and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which once imported slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage.”  Kennedy paused before delivering the punch-line – a punch-line that drew laughter of self-recognition.  “I refer, of course, to the United States of America,” Kennedy concluded.

Scholars, pundits, and historical actors have long drawn parallels between the United States and South Africa – two countries founded on the premises of racial inequality.  In this course, we will explore the machinations of race from the quickening of industrial development to the present.  We will consider the benefits and pitfalls of thinking comparatively, as well as cover such topics as segregation, transatlantic religious and cultural exchanges, living apartheid and Jim Crow, struggles for liberation, the American anti-apartheid movement, memory and the struggles for social change, and the notion of “post-racial societies.”

Professor biography:

Professor Shapiro studies American social and southern history, as well as South African history. She is now engaged in three distinct projects. The first consists of a biography of Archbishop Walter Khotso Makhulu, archbishop of Central Africa between 1980 and 2000.  A graduate of the same seminary and a direct contemporary of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu who served as Archbishop of Cape Town,

Second, explores South Africa’s apartheid-era emigration policy and its relationship to notions of citizenship and state formation, as well as the ways in which passports and other kinds of travel documents formed part of the oppressive apparatus of the successive National Party governments.

Third, Professor Shapiro is researching the transnational careers of seven influential South African medics who came to North Carolina in the 1950s and ‘60s to work at Duke and UNC, Chapel Hill. Primarily epidemiologists and family and community medicine doctors, this cohort adopted a “social medicine” approach. These pioneering doctors generally left South Africa when the National Party introduced apartheid in the late 1940s/1950s. Several ended up in North Carolina, where they had long and illustrious careers.


The Making and Measure of a Judge: The Honorable Sammie Chess Jr.

Speaker: Judge Joe L. Webster

The Making and Measure of a Judge: Biography of the Honorable Sammie Chess, Jr. is the definitive biography of North Carolina’s first African American Superior Court Judge. It is a vivid historical journey of Chess’s humble beginning on the dirt floor of a tenant dwelling, in the midst of the Great Depression, in rural South Carolina. Chess’s journey continues through the Jim Crow era and the civil rights struggle as a civil rights attorney, and his rise to an outstanding Superior Court judge, Administrative Law judge, mentor and public servant. The book contains many lessons on how one should conduct themselves as lawyers and judges, and more importantly, many lessons on how to live one’s life. When asked how he was able to rise above all he had experienced first-hand of the segregated south and set aside any personally biases he might have, without hesitation, Chess responded: “You treat people the way you want to be treated, not the way you are treated. I didn’t let them set my standards. If a Klan member can bring you to his level, then you are not well rooted.” Chess lived by a moral compass that lead him to dispense equal justice under law for all, irrespective of race or any other status in life. Undoubtedly, Chess reminds all of us of one of the greatest lessons one can learn in life: “With perseverance we can achieve.”
Judge Joe L. Webster is the Magistrate Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina. Judge Webster graduated from Howard University magna cum laude in 1976, and graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1979. In May 2016, Judge Webster graduated from Duke University School of Law with a LL.M. (Master of Judicial Studies). He practiced law from 1979 through 2006, and was appointed as a North Carolina Administrative Law Judge, Office of Administrative Hearings, in 2006, and has served in that position until his appointment. Judge Webster was a member of the N.C. Board of Law Examiners from 1989 through 2002, an Adjunct Professor of Law at Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law from 2004 through 2012 and First Vice President of BarCARES of N.C., Inc, from 2011 through 2012. Judge Webster’s duty station is in Durham, North Carolina. Judge Webster recently published, The Making and Measure of a Judge: Biography of the Honorable Sammie Chesse Jr. (Chapel Hill Press, 2017).

This event is presented by the John Hope Franklin Center, and Duke University’s Center for International and Global Studies. A light lunch will be served. Parking is available in nearby Trent Rd. and Erwin Rd. parking decks. The series provides 1 hour parking vouchers to guests.