Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
University of Sussex
Website URL
race and the law in US History, race, law, civil cases, African American history, US South, court, lawyer, social justice, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Rights Movement, criminal cases
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Melissa Milewski earned her B.A. in U.S. History from Stanford University and her Ph.D. in U.S. History from New York University. After obtaining her Ph.D., she was a visiting scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences from 2011-2012. She then taught at Columbia University from the fall of 2012 to fall 2015, first as an ACLS New Faculty Fellow and then as a Visiting Scholar and Instructor in the Department of History and Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race.  She is currently a Lecturer in American History at the University of Sussex in England.

Dr.Milewski recently completed a book examining civil cases between white and black Southerners, entitled Litigating Across the Color Line: Civil Cases Between Black and White Southerners from the End of Slavery to Civil Rights, which will be published by Oxford University Press in October of 2017.  Through an examination of more than 1300 cases involving black litigants from 1865 to 1950, she found that African Americans were surprisingly successful against white southerners in certain kinds of civil cases.  Her book examines how black southerners negotiated the system of Jim Crow and an almost all-white legal system to at times win cases against whites.  Her article on this subject, “From Slave to Litigant: African Americans in the Court in the Postwar South, 1865-1920,” was published in the August 2012 Law & History Review.

Dr. Milewski is now working on a new book project which examines the ways in which people of color have protested their treatment by police and in the courts from the early 19th century to the Black Lives Matter Movement today.  Her current research examines how black defendants in criminal cases in the 19th and 20th century protested police brutality, forced confessions, the lack of adequate legal representation, and jury discrimination.

Recent Publications

“Justice in an Unjust World: The untold story of African-Americans’ civil cases in the segregated South” History Today (June 2018).


Litigating Across the Color Line: Civil Cases Between Black and White Southerners from the End of Slavery to Civil Rights (Oxford University Press, Nov. 2017).


“Rethinking the Role of the Courts in the Lives of Black Southerners,” The American Historian (Nov. 2017).


“From Slave to Litigant: African Americans in Court in the Post-War South, 1865-1920,” Law and History Review 30:3 (August 2012), 723-769.


From Slave to Litigant: African Americans in Court in the Post-Civil War South,”


Before the Manifesto: The Life Writings of Mary Lois Walker Morris (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2007). Life Writings of Frontier Women series. 639 pages. Winner of Kanner

Book Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians.

Media Coverage
coverage of TrumpWatch Sussex podcast on Politico and Newsweek, podcast on BBC 4 Making History
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
19th century, 20th century, 21st century
Expertise by Topic
American Civil War, Emancipation, Gender, Government, Human Rights, Law, Local & Regional, Migration & Immigration, Politics, Race, Sexual Violence, Slavery, Women