Cumberland’s Works-in-Progress Series

Posted: Mon, 09/17/2012 - 14:34

Professor Angela Onwuachi-Willig is pictured at the lecternProfessor Angela Onwuachi-Willig of the University of Iowa College of Law was the first presenter in Cumberland School of Law Faculty’s Works-in-Progress Series. During her presentation, she discussed her forthcoming book: According to Our Hearts: Lessons on Race, Family, and Law From Rhinelander v. Rinelander (Yale University Press).

According to Our Heats examines the sensational litigation of Rhinelander v. Rhinelander and utilizes Alice and Leonard’s story of love, law, and race as a backdrop for discussion on contemporary issues on multiracial identity, interracial marriages and multiracial families in a variety of contexts like high-level professions, family, housing, and employment law.

Pressured by his family and risking disownment, Leonard Rhinelander—one of New York’s social elites—sought an annulment from his wife, Alice, in 1924. Leonard claimed that Alice, of racially ambiguous ancestry, misrepresented her race as white. Though interracial marriages were not legally proscribed in New York at the time, Alice’s alleged racial misrepresentation served as a sufficient basis for annulment. In turn, the Rhinelander trial became a spectacle of determining Alice’s race, concluding with not only the annulment of the Rhinelanders’ marriage but also the demise of a captivating love story between Alice and Leonard.

During her presentation, Professor Onwuachi-Willig discussed the specific workplace discrimination suffered by employees in interracial unions and multiracial families as well as the import of monoracial unions on the advancement of individuals seeking prominent professional positions in academia, sports, and politics.

Launched in 2004-2005, the Cumberland School of Law’s Works-in-Progress Series serves as an important opportunity for faculty and interested students to hear the recent scholarship of leading legal academics from across the country. The presentations allow attendees to think critically about and engage in a robust, intellectual exchange on contemporary as well as historic socio-legal issues domestically and globally. If you are interested in learning more about the Works-in-Progress Series, members of the Cumberland community may contact Professor Wendy Greene, director of faculty development.