On the road with Albion Tourgée and George Henry White at Bennett College

MidLaw spoke to the East Greensboro Rotary Club this morning. They convene at 7:30 AM in Jones Hall on the campus of Bennett College (they have one handsome dining hall in there but they do gather at an early hour).

Compared and contrasted the careers of Albion Tourgée and George Henry White. That is a very cool topic, but you gotta be a member of the East Greensboro Rotary Club to know why.

(Tourgée was a founder of Bennett College, draftsman of the Education Clause in NC’s 1868 Constitution among many other things. For comparison’s sake, White secured the charter of Livingston College. But that’s not what the talk was about.)

Greensboro placed at the center of American history — “the earliest known” long-distance Underground Railroad scheme

Bound for Canaan, The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America’s First Civil Rights Movement by  Fergus Bordewich, was pronounced by the Wall Street Journal to be “an excellent book . . . as close to a definitive history as we’re likely to see.”

In Bound for Canaan, Bordewich says

By the 1800’s the North Carolina Quakers formed the only sizable abolitionist community south of the border states. Though isolated in an ocean of slaveholders, they were numerous and well organized, and had close links with relatives, friends, and fellow Quakers in the free states. They were uniquely well situated to lay a foundation for the earliest long-distance route of the Underground Railroad.

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Beyond the border states, only in North Carolina, where Quakers provided the critical mass of support, would organized emanciplationist sentiment survive on a significant scale, and produce men radical enough to break the law.

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Levi and Vestal Coffin [from the New Garden community near present-day Greensboro] were shortly to become the founders of the earliest known scheme to transport fugitives across hundreds of miles of unfriendly territory to safety in the free states.

So Bordewich puts Greensboro and Guilford County at the center of the history of the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness in America – a place Greensboro and Guilford have continued to occupy ever since, with the histories of Albion Tourgee, the Sit-In Movement, Henry Frye, the Klan-Nazi Shooting (also referred to as the Greensboro Massacre), and the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

WELL, Fergus Bordewich will be in Greensboro to speak on November 2. His topic:  “Still Bound for Canaan. The Underground Railroad, its History, and its Meaning for the Twenty-First Century.

That event will be free and open to the public.

Baby Boom summoned back to the barricades — we have an image problem

UNCG’s G.R.O.W.T.H. (“Gerontology Research, Outreach, Workforce, & Teaching Hub”) initiative may have stumbled upon the beginings of a disturbing trend.

The scholars at UNCG have observed that prospective gerontology students, when surveyed, say they want to work with older adults, “but not with Baby Boomers.”

They want to work with people “like my grandmother,” instead of Baby Boomers. (Wisely, no one has pointed out to them yet when grandma was born, and what she was doing back in the ‘60s. That’s what education is for.)

No doubt, this attitude among the young has been provoked by surly (not to say “fake”) media narratives.

OK: Baby Boomers did not defeat the Nazis. That was our parents.

And when it came to Vietnam, we split.

US presidents who are Baby Boomers, none of whom bothered with the war, seem destined for not-very-inspiring chapters in the history books. And, there has always been a certain theme of self-absorption among our entire cohort. We are sometimes referred to as “the Me Generation.”

But, speaking as one of the very first Baby Boomers – an original – pretty soon we’re going to need somebody to take care of us. And somebody has got to study us. (We have always liked that.)

So, it’s back to the barricades.

We’ve got an image problem. We’ve got to figure out a way to charm these Millenials and the now-emerging Generation Z. They need to know: it’s not all about them.

Marcus in a dyspeptic moment

What was he reading?

In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius advises

Cast out the thirst for books that you may not die growling, but with true graciousness, and grateful to the gods from the heart.

For most of his career, and especially while he campaigned on the northern borders, which is when he wrote The Meditations, Marcus had no access to cable TV.

Allowing for the subsequent passage of time, one may perhaps broadly interpret what he was saying as: “watch too much cable TV and you will die growling.”  Grrrr.

Cast out that thirst.

Response to burdens on justice system: legal navigators sail into view

The statistics about the courts are so extreme that you can’t believe them: 30 million people a year are unrepresented in state courts; 86% of the civil legal problems of low-income people go with little or no legal help.

You can’t relate to numbers like this. There’s a phrase for it: “psychic numbing.”

The 30 million cases are mostly low-dollar, routine kinds of things. So the most representative stories aren’t all that dramatic. They are numbingly mundane.

The real story is about the system.

Nobody loves the system. But the system is the infrastructure for the rule of law. And the rule of law keeps the economy moving. The growing burdens on the system are the result of an increasingly complex society. The system is overloaded.

Innovations are needed.

A response is beginning to gather. Where a high volume of low-dollar, routine traffic is choking the system, the idea is that you don’t need a Juris Doctor to handle those problems, even though you do need somebody who knows what they are doing. The response that’s gathering support is to create a new category of legal services, or a new cohort of legal services providers, ones that are focussed on limited legal processes or procedures. Ones that focus on the mundane.

Call them navigators for now. They don’t need a three-year legal education in order to know what they are doing and to do better than non-lawyers representing themselves.

The context for legal services – a critical system is staggering under the load

The Internet says that the population of the United States is a bit more than 229 million people.Bird caught in a net

The Justice Lab at Georgetown Law Center estimates that 30 million people every year lack legal representation in state courts cases.

In seventy-five percent of civil cases in state courts, at least one party is unrepresented. Eighty-six percent of the civil legal problems of low-income people get little or no legal help.

This is not a lawyer problem. It is a system problem.

The United States has created an exceedingly complex society. Rich or poor, everyone gets entangled with the legal system at every turn: housing, healthcare, education, domestic relations, domestic violence, jobs, consumer finance, retirement, disaster recovery, insurance, veterans, taxes, citizenship, death.

The system is clogged. Poor people trying to resolve legal issues in a clogged system without lawyersExacerbatious.

The problem goes to the foundations of the rule of law. It is bigger than something lawyers alone can fix.

 

 

The “first planter of education” at Guilford College was a woman “who stepped directly from the forest” – Anne the Huntress

Guilford College is rightly celebrated as the first coeducational college in the South.

What may be less well known is the tale of the first “planter of education” in the community that became Guilford College. She was known as “Anne the Huntress.” Her character and attributes color the culture, if not the attire, of women (and men) at Guilford College to this day. She stepped directly from the forest.

Quoth Dorothy Gilbert:

The first planter of education [in the New Garden community] was a woman who stepped directly from the forest in 1790 and vanished away into it seventeen years later. Her coming was dramatic. A large company had gathered to watch a shooting match, and suddenly there was among them a beautiful young woman carrying a highly ornamented rifle and equipped with a shot pouch, belt, hunting knife, and hatchet. She asked permission to take a shot with contesting riflemen: then she stepped to the line, gracefully raised her rifle, took quick aim, and fired. The ball drove the center sixty yards away. And this was the teacher, for Ann the Huntress – she never gave another name – lingered happily in the community for years: and as she visited from home to home, she taught the children for her recreation and killed the deer for her livelihood. She particularly objected to careless pronunciation, and young Quakers began the use of the final consonant. The speech within that neighborhood showed perceptible differences, and Addison Coffin believed that the influence of Anne the Huntress accounted for it and prepared the way for the success of [what became Guilford College].

This teacher “who wore Indian leggings and carried her rifle,” Gilbert believed, ”deserves commemoration in the annals of the profession.” She came from the forest and she planted a tradition of education and refinement at the very beginnings of the New Garden settlement in the Carolinas. “Ann the Huntress” was her name.

To this day, selected Guilford students may be observed to exhibit memorable attire. Perhaps there is a strain of the Huntress in that.

While no latter-day Guilford student is known to carry a silver-plated rifle (nor would a rifle likely be welcome on campus in these parlous times), one account of Ann’s 1790 bullseye reports that she fired a second shot immediately after the first – and landed it “neatly atop the first;” and hitting the mark is another Huntress attribute that characterizes Guilford students to this day. It is seen in the performance of Guilford’s golf and basketball teams, the creations of its Mark Dixon’s sculpture students, and the precision of all those accounting majors.

Issues of careless pronunciation among present-day Guilfordians want closer scrutiny.

 

WUNC to broadcast interview with Brian Lampkin about The Tarboro Three

The Tarboro Three will be a lead story on WUNC’s The State of Things next Tuesday (August 20) at noon.

Frank Stasio will interview author and former Tarboro resident Brian Lampkin about Brian’s recent book, The Tarboro Three: Rape, Race, and Secrecy (Scuppernong Editions/2019).

The Tarboro Three is of interest for the story itself of course, but it’s also worth reading to see how a Tarboro immigrant, now emigrant, observed and now interprets Tarboro.

The interview will air on Tuesday, but then it’ll be posted on WUNC’s website as a podcast after that. WUNC is on “terrestrial radio” at 91.5 FM in the Chapel Hill/Raleigh/Durham area; at 88.9 FM from Manteo, serving the North East outer banks and coastal communities; at 91.9 from Fayetteville; at 91.1 just south of Winston-Salem in the Welcome, NC, area; and, at 90.9 FM from Rocky Mount.

Lawyers, information, intelligence (organic and artificial), which is primary?

I’ve come across three articles today that grapple with artificial intelligence.

One says that automation and artificial intelligence will take over all human jobs within 125 years (half in the next 25 years). Another says, well, OK, but lawyers have at least 7 skills that no machine will ever take. And the third says that all routine lawyer jobs will be taken by the machines, but maybe not the exceptional, non-routine, jobs.

All businesses will be (are) information in some fashion. Virtually all information can be digitized. Ultimately, all that information will be obtained, accessed, and understood by means of automation and artificial intelligence.

Virtually all evidence in virtually all business and commercial cases will be obtained and accessed as it comes into being. Discovery will be completed before there is a complaint.

The role of lawyers will be something new. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that the role of lawyers will go back to the origins of the profession.

One of those articles says, “Lawyers Are in the Information Business. Get Over It.”

Maybe instead, information companies are in the law business.

 

Contronyms: at the frontiers of language

Somewhere in Southern California, there’s a lady named Judith Herman.  She’s got a blog: Lexie Kahn, Word Snooper. Her snoop is “Lexie Kahn, Private Etymologist.”

Herman is doing good work.

She’s published “25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites;” and “16 More Words That Are Their Own Opposites.” Others are on this trail. Somebody posted “20 Words That Are Their Own Opposites.” Grammarly posted 75 Contronyms (Words with Contradictory Meanings)

Words that mean exactly what they don’t mean.

Go English!