Only One Place of Redress

African Americans, Labor Regulations, and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal

Only One Place of Redress

Constitutional Conflicts

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Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: Published: January 2001

History > U.S. History, Law > Legal History, Politics > Political Science

In Only One Place of Redress David E. Bernstein offers a bold reinterpretation of American legal history: he argues that American labor and occupational laws, enacted by state and federal governments after the Civil War and into the twentieth century, benefited dominant groups in society to the detriment of those who lacked political power. Both intentionally and incidentally, claims Bernstein, these laws restricted in particular the job mobility and economic opportunity of blacks.
A pioneer in applying the insights of public choice theory to legal history, Bernstein contends that the much-maligned jurisprudence of the Lochner era—with its emphasis on freedom of contract and private market ordering—actually discouraged discrimination and assisted groups with little political clout. To support this thesis he examines the motivation behind and practical impact of laws restricting interstate labor recruitment, occupational licensing laws, railroad labor laws, minimum wage statutes, the Davis-Bacon Act, and New Deal collective bargaining. He concludes that the ultimate failure of Lochnerism—and the triumph of the regulatory state—not only strengthened racially exclusive labor unions but contributed to a massive loss of employment opportunities for African Americans, the effects of which continue to this day.
Scholars and students interested in race relations, labor law, and legal
or constitutional history will be fascinated by Bernstein’s daring—and controversial—argument.


“[Only One Place of Redress] makes a unique and serious contribution to the quest to protect freedom of enterprise. It demonstrates that government is often the oppressor, rather than the salvation for the oppressed. And it shows that the beneficent facade of many economic regulations actually masks protectionistic objectives. This untold chapter of the Jim Crow saga helps explain why our society remains separate and unequal today, and underscores the need to focus on economic liberty to remove oppressive barriers to opportunity that have persisted far too long.” — Clint Bolick , American Enterprise

“[A] bold reinterpretation of American legal history.” — Yale Law Report

“[A] short and sharp challenge to the prevailing narrative of the emergence of the contemporary American welfare state. . . . Bernstein’s uniquely unsentimental account of African-American and labor history is indispensable to serious reflection on these issues, and clears the way for a reconsideration of whether blacks might be better served by the principles of limited government, property rights, and liberty of contract.” — Ken I. Kersch , Public Interest

“[A] stimulating overview of the relationships among organized labor, African Americans, and the U.S. legal system for the period 1877–1945. It usefully defamiliarizes the past and uses a briskly presented law and economics perspective to force a rereading of the traditional script of labor history.” — Robert H. Zieger, Reviews in American History

“[I]t makes a compelling case that historians cannot ignore.” — Michael S. Mayer , Journal of American History

“Bernstein advances a robust thesis. . . . [T]his readable and provocative book underscores the complexity of the race question in America and its connection with facially non-racial legal and economic principles.” — Brian K. Landsberg , Law and Politics Book Review

“Bernstein is an eloquent writer and an accomplished legal historian. . . . Bernstein should be credited with trying to open eyes to the racism of the labor movement in America, and . . . he has written a provocative book that should be read by all those interested in issues of race, labor, and economics.” — W. Lewis Burke , H-Net Reviews

“David Bernstein offers a refreshing perspective on this heavily criticized period. . . . Professor Bernstein's highly original analysis will no doubt spark debate among Lochner scholars, breathing new life into a previously tired discussion.” — Harvard Law Review

“This is a good book. . . . [A] very important addition to the literature. Bernstein, using the traditional narrative approach of legal scholars along with a little economic theory, has demonstrated, convincingly . . . that the coercive power of the state was used to hurt blacks, and that the color-blind market approach envisioned in Lochner would have provided superior job opportunities for African Americans.” — Richard K. Vedder, EH.Net

"[A] powerful new book. . . . The history here is important for what it reveals about how market institutions have performed and are likely to function in the future. . . . Only One Place of Redress has significant policy implications, which makes it an even more important contribution." — Michael B. Rappaport , Acta Biotheoretica

"Bernstein has provided us with an important narrative that is underappreciated in African-American history. . . . [P]rovocative. . . . Bernstein has written an engaging book that expands our understanding. . . .”

— Davison M. Douglas , Michigan Law Review

"Bernstein makes a solid contribution to African American and U.S. labor, legal, and economic history. . . . Only One Place of Redress fills an important gap in our understanding of the interplay of state, race, and labor policies during the industrial era."

— Joe W. Trotter , Labor History

"The book is well written and clearly argued, the footnotes are extensive, and Bernstein has an impressive . . . command of secondary sources. . . . Only One Place of Redress contains a wealth of useful information about specific types of nonmarket discrimination against African Americans and a wealth of useful references to court cases and to the secondary literature." — Robert Margo, Independent Review

“A provocative revisionist overview of legislation regulating labor relations. This will undoubtedly receive a great deal of attention from historians and students of the Constitution, and for good reason.” — Mark Tushnet, author of Making Constitutional Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1961–1991

Only One Place of Redress presents a bold reinterpretation of the relationship between governmental regulations of the marketplace and economic opportunity for blacks. Bernstein challenges the conventional wisdom and invites readers to reconsider breezy assumptions about how employment regulations operated.” — James W. Ely, Jr., author of The Guardian of Every Other Right: A Constitutional History of Property Rights


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

David E. Bernstein is Associate Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law and coeditor of Phantom Risk: Scientific Inference and the Law.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xix

Introduction 1

1. Emigrant Agent Laws

2. Licensing Laws 121

3. Railroad Labor Regulations

4. Prevailing-Wage Laws

5. New Deal Labor Laws 353


Section 1: Federal Acts and Resolutions 486

Section 2: State Legislation 519

Section 3: Municipal Resolutions 537

Section 4: Advocacy and Activism 560

Section 5: Case Studies of Redress

Section 6: Lawsuits 661

Selected Bibliography 673

Contributors 683

Acknowledgment of Copyrights 687 687

Index 691
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2583-3
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