Serena Mayeri (PhD 2006, History; JD 2001), professor of law and history at University of Pennsylvania Law School, received the 2012 Darlene Clark Hine Award from the Organization of American Historians for Reasoning from Race: Feminism, Law, and the Civil Rights Revolution (Harvard University Press). The prize, given for the best book in African American women’s and gender history, was the committee’s unanimous choice. Mayeri earned her law degree from Yale and her bachelor’s degree from Harvard.
The award committee called Reasoning from Race “a brilliant excavation of the role that analogies between sexual and racial discrimination have played in legal battles over women’s rights. Mayeri recasts the story of 1970s legal feminism by uncovering a largely forgotten history of black and white women’s activism, which pursued much more expansive conceptions of equality than those that ultimately became law. In doing so, Mayeri also moves the field of African American women’s history forward by demonstrating how black women’s activism and insights from their work in civil rights shaped women’s rights struggles. Her ambitious and probing research demonstrates the analytical power of an intersectional approach to women’s history and leaves us with a radically new vision of how black women locally and nationally shaped legal culture.”
Founded in 1907, the OAH is the largest learned society and professional organization dedicated to the teaching and study of the American past.
Mayeri’s scholarship focuses on the historical impact of progressive and conservative social movements on legal and constitutional change. Her current project examines the history of challenges to marriage’s primacy as a legal institution and a source of public and private benefits. At Penn, she teaches courses in family law, employment discrimination, gender and the law, and legal history.