Law and its limits in Albion Tourgée’s: Bricks without straw

Kate Masur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Tourgée’s novel explores the challenges posed by the wartime abolition of slavery in the United States and the federal government’s attempt to impose a new legal order on the southern states. The Ohio-born Tourgée was an accomplished writer as well as a judge in Reconstruction North Carolina, and the novel-which is set in central North Carolina-takes up the possibilities and limits of legal reform in the wake of war. Masur argues that Bricks without Straw presents a largely pessimistic vision of law’s capacity to change deeply rooted social and political structures. Tourgée’s novel warns readers that when it comes to overcoming the legacies of slavery, the law is outmatched by white southerners’ racism and contempt. Masur situates Tourgée’s novel in the context of his political experience, which convinced him that an abstract commitment to individual rights meant little without robust federal institutions capable of protecting those rights against state and local resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCannons and Codes
Subtitle of host publicationLaw, Literature, and America’s Wars
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780197509371
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Albion tourgée
  • Bricks without straw
  • Emancipation
  • Racism
  • Reconstruction era
  • Slavery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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