Race, Racism, and the Voting Rights Act

Guy-Uriel Charles, Duke Law School

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 4:30pm
127 Corwin Hall

** Please note location:  127 Corwin Hall **

LAPA’s seminar format assumes that seminar participants have familiarized themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator opens the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

The Voting Rights Act is one of the most iconic and consequential civil rights statutes ever enacted by Congress.  For 50 years, the Act represented a distinctive and successful approach to addressing racial equality in voting, an approach constructed from the iron fillings of the civil rights movement. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Court struck down two of the critical provisions of the Act and signaled the end of a particular way of understanding voting rights law and policy.  Commentators have blamed Shelby County for the demise of the VRA.  In this talk, Professor Charles will suggest that the Act’s demise is caused by the Court’s conception of racism, which is reflected in Shelby County but also in many other civil rights cases.  He will conclude by exploring how the Court’s understanding of racism will affect the future of voting rights law and policy.

Guy-Uriel Charles
Edward and Ellen Schwarzman Professor of Law
Duke Law School

Guy-Uriel Charles joined the Duke Law faculty in 2009. He is currently the Edward and Ellen Schwarzman Professor of Law at Duke Law School and the Bennett Boskey Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is the co-director, with Mitu Gulati, of the Duke Law Center on Law, Race and Politics. He teaches and writes about constitutional law, election law, campaign finance, redistricting, politics, and race.  In 2016, he received the Law School’s Distinguished Teaching Award.  He has published more than 30 articles in journals including the Harvard Law Review, Constitutional Commentary, The Michigan Law Review, The Michigan Journal of Race and Law, The Georgetown Law Journal, The Journal of Politics, The California Law Review, The North Carolina Law Review, and others.  He is the co-author of two leading casebooks and two edited volumes.  He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Berkeley, Georgetown, Virginia, and Columbia law schools. 

Professor Charles received his JD from the University of Michigan Law School and clerked for The Honorable Damon J. Keith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. While at the University of Michigan, he was among a group of students who founded the Michigan Journal of Race & Law and he served as the Journal’s first editor-in-chief. From 1995-2000, he was a graduate student in political science at the University of Michigan.  He is a past member of the National Research Commission on Elections and Voting and the Century Foundation Working Group on Election Reform.