Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
American Bar Foundation
Website URL
law, US constitution, hate speech, media, religion, first amendment, political economy, antisemitism, Henry Ford, courts, trials, lawyers, politics, agriculture, family farms, civil rights, race
Additional Contact Information
Personal email: Personal cell phone: 765-490-0178

Personal Info

About Me

I’m a historian of American law, focusing on constitutional rights, religion, discrimination, and economic change.  Over the course of my career, my interests have expanded in untraditional directions.  My books and current research sit in rather distinct areas of study, focus on different historical periods, and engage with different aspects of law.  I was the first historian of my generation to bring a legal history perspective to the story of American agriculture, a perspective that revealed that farmers responded to the challenges of industrialization with innovation and imagination.  I followed the thread of agricultural change in a modernizing society by examining the cultural tensions that arose in the 1920s over the emergence of agriculture as a business like any other.  Surprisingly, that thread led to the discovery of Henry Ford’s deep-seated antisemitism, which he unleashed on a Jewish lawyer who spent his career helping farmers organize just as wage workers were doing.  Ford’s animus towards Jews blended with his hostility to unions and set the table for many of the fundamental questions that confronted New Dealers and the post-war administrative state.  What we today call hate speech took root in the era of Ford’s harmful publications, and our legal system’s uncertain treatment of hate speech has led to a frustrating impasse within our society, epitomized by the presence of the cult known as the Westboro Baptist Church and the idea we are now encountering daily that religious freedom rights supersede all others.

In 2016, I was the Democratic nominee for Indiana’s House of Representatives in my home district.  Losing in the Trump wave election spurred me to become even more engaged in local political action.  I organized my local Women’s March event on January 21, 2017 and helped organize our local March for Science, March for Health Care, and Vigil for Charlottesville after the Nazi march in August 2017.  Since the 2016 election I have spoken frequently to scholarly and general audiences on the relationship between our historical record on discrimination and the current regime’s policies on immigration, disaster relief, gay rights, and women’s rights.  As an academic who is also a politician, I am learning about the intersection between history and politics in new and different ways, and I am writing about this experience even as it continues to unfold.

Recent Publications

“How Growing Raisins Became a Dangerous Business,” Made By History, Washington Post, May 17, 2019 (

“‘Fake News’ Invokes a Particular History for White Supremacists,” Made By History, Washington Post, Sept. 5, 2017 (; reported by, Sept. 7, 2017 (

“When Trump Denounces the ‘Fake Media,’ Anti-Semites Hear ‘Jew Media,” History News Network, Sept. 3, 2017 (; also published on, Sept. 5, 2017 ( and, Sept. 6, 2017 (“Are Trump’s Attacks on the Press a Dog Whistle to Anti-Semites?”) (

“Why Indiana Republicans Blundered So Badly on Gay Rights,” History News Network, April 13, 2015 (

“I’m Shocked, SHOCKED, to Find That Gambling Is Going on Here,”, April 2, 2015 (

“Framing Henry Ford’s War:  Representation, Speech, and the New Civil Rights History.”  Law and Social Inquiry, 40:4 (Fall 2015), 1067-79.

“Apologies and Atonement.”, August 1, 2013 ( (on the observance of Henry Ford’s 150th birthday)

“Henry Ford:  Behind the Myth.”, June 7, 2013 (

Henry Ford’s War On Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech. Stanford University Press, June 2012.

Media Coverage
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
20th century, 21st century
Expertise by Topic
Capitalism, Economic History, Food History, Law, Politics, Race, Religion, World War I, World War II