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Constitution Day speaker reveals history of civil rights activism behind Marshall Street name
Marshall Street on the SU Hill is most commonly known for its trendy shops and restaurants. But the origins of Marshall Street date back to a leading 20th-century lawyer, Louis Marshall, who grew up in Syracuse, was a trustee of Syracuse University and is the man after whom Marshall Street was named.
As part of Constitution Day, Victoria Saker Woeste, author and research professor for the American Bar Foundation, will commemorate the event and Louis Marshall with a lecture based on her new book, “Henry Ford’s War on Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech” (Stanford University Press, 2012). The Constitution Day event for first-year law students is on Thursday, Sept. 13, at noon in Hendricks Chapel. The event is open to the public.
Woeste’s current book allows readers to appreciate the life and work of Marshall in a new way with an explosive retelling of the 1927 libel lawsuit against Henry Ford and his anti-Semitic newspaper, the Dearborn Independent. This study opens previously unexplored vistas into the history of the legal profession, the history of hate speech and the history of civil rights activism. Woeste’s other projects include a biographical study of Marshall (1856-1929) and a study of the relationship between farm size, farm ownership (including racial and gender factors) and agricultural monopoly after World War II.
“Woeste’s pathbreaking work on Louis Marshall and his legal battle against hate speech tells us about more than just an important episode in American history,” says Keith Bybee, Paul E. and the Hon. Joanne F. Alper ’72 Judiciary Studies Professor and director of the Institute for the Study of the Judiciary, Politics and the Media at Syracuse University. “Her research also shows us how the Constitution has an influence on flesh-and-blood disputes, providing a set of principles and a roster of rights that are essential for the conduct of American public life.”
Woeste earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree and Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley, where she trained as an interdisciplinary academic in law and social science. Since joining the American Bar Foundation in 1994, she has established herself as a leading scholar in the field of U.S. legal history, specifically 20th-century business regulation and political economy. Her first book, “The Farmer’s Benevolent Trust” (University of North Carolina Press, 1998), won the Law and Society Association’s J. Willard Hurst Prize in 2000; in dissertation form it was awarded the 1993 Herman Krooss Prize of the Business History Conference.
Constitution Day commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.