Alfred L. Brophy

Print This Page (PDF) Judge John J. Parker Distinguished Professor of Law


  • Ph.D., Harvard University
  • A.M., Harvard University
  • J.D., Columbia University
  • A.B. (Phi Beta Kappa), University of Pennsylvania

Before entering teaching in 1994, Alfred L. ("Al") Brophy was a law clerk to Judge John Butzner of the United States Court of Appeals (Fourth Circuit), practiced law with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in New York, and was a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities at Harvard University. He joined the UNC faculty in 2008, from the University of Alabama. He has also taught at Boston College, the University of Hawaii, and Vanderbilt University. Brophy teaches in the fields of property, trusts and estates, and remedies. In 2016-17 he is teaching trusts and estates in the fall and property in the spring.

Alfred Brophy writes about property, trusts and estates, and race in colonial, antebellum, and early Twentieth Century America. Often his work looks to the ideas of outsiders and their interaction with the legal system, sometimes as plaintiffs or defendants, and at other times as criminal defendants. Some of his other work looks to ideas of legal actors and thinkers, both great and humble, from judges to those whose names we have completely forgotten. His books are Reconstructing the Dreamland: The Tulsa Riot of 1921, Race, Reparations, Reconciliation (Oxford University Press, 2002) and Reparations Pro and Con (Oxford University Press, 2006). His expansive book on antebellum jurisprudence,University, Court, and Slave: Proslavery Thought in Southern Colleges and Courts and the Coming of Civil War, will be published by Oxford University Press in August 2016. He is the lead co-author with Alberto Lopez and Kali Murray of Integrating Spaces: Property Law and Race (Aspen, 2011). He co-edited A Companion to American Legal History (Wiley-Blackwell 2013) with Sally Hadden, and he was co-editor with Daniel W. Hamilton of Transformations in American Legal History (Harvard 2009) and Transformations in American Legal History--Law, Ideology, and Methods, Essays in Honor of Morton J. Horwitz, volume II (Harvard 2010). He has also published extensively in law reviews, including the Boston University Law Review, Columbia Law Review, Indiana Law Journal, Journal of Legal Education, North Carolina Law Review, and the Texas Law Review.

He has delivered a number of distinguished lectures, including "Property and Progress: Antebellum Landscape Art and Property Law" (PDF) in 2008 at the University of the Pacific's McGeorge Law School; the Hutchins Lecture to the Center for the Study of the American South, on constitutional ideas in literary addresses at UNC before the Civil War (PDF) in 2010, the Hendricks lecture at Washington and Lee University, on "the jurisprudence of slavery, freedom, and Union at Washington College, 1831 to 1861" in September 2011; the annual spring lecture at the University of Florida's Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations on "Slavery, The Constitution, and Secession" in April 2012; Carolina Law's annual Murphy Lecture, on slavery and constitutional thought at UNC before the Civil War in February 2013; the B.C. Franklin lecture at the University of Tulsa, on African American intellectuals and the movement for equality in the early 20th century in November 2014; the twenty-third annual Harrison Lecture at Western Kentucky University in March 2015; and the Discourse in Democracy lecture at Texas State University in March 2016. From 2003 to 2010 he served as book reviews editor of Law and History Review. In 2012 he joined the editorial board of Slavery and Abolition. For 2014 to 2018 he is serving as a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. As of 2016 he is co-editor with Stefan Vogenauer of the Max Planck Institute, of the American Journal of Legal History.

Brophy is writing a book about the idea of equality in early twentieth century African American thought and its influence on the Civil Rights Movement, Reading the Great Constitutional Dream Book: The Black Origins of Brown.He is also co-editing with Leslie Harris, Susan Ashmore, Mark Auslander, and James T. Campbell, a volume on slavery and universities, co-editing with Mark E. Brandon the Cambridge Companion to the Declaration of Independence, and co-editing with Patrick Erben and Margo Lambert the writings of seventeenth century jurist Francis Daniel Pastorius, one of the first to protest slavery in the New World. Some of his other current research is on the intersection of property and equity, implied trust beneficiaries, monument (PDF) and cemetery law,law school rankings, empirical investigation of the probate process and trustee behavior in the South before the Civil War, trust law regarding slavery, creditors' rights, and quasi-freedom in the pre-Civil War South, constitutional and legal thought in pre-Civil War oratory, property jurisprudence in North and South before the Civil War, reparations for the eugenics movement, "applied" legal history, andpedagogy.

Brophy received his A.B. from the University of Pennsylvania (summa cum laude), a J.D. from Columbia University, where he served as an editor of the Columbia Law Review, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Mr. Brophy has been a member of the North Carolina General Statutes Commission's Trust Drafting Committee since 2008. When he is not teaching, doing pro bono work, or writing, Brophy enjoys a number of hobbies, including reading the advance sheets of F.3d and coding pre-Civil War judicial opinions and wills for analysis. Some of his recent publications are available at the social science research network. Here's another picture of Alfred Brophy (in high resolution). Some of Brophy's occasional, lighter commentary is available at the faculty lounge blog.

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Selected Publications

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  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fulcrum of Property Rights, 6 ALA. C. R. & C. L. L. REV. 75 (2015). [Hein]
  • [Re]Integrating Spaces: The Possibilities of Common Law Property, 2 SAVANNAH L. REV. 1 (2015). [SSRN]
  • Book Review Antislavery Women and the Origins of American Jurisprudence, 94 TEXAS L. REV. 115 (2015) (reviewing Sarah Roth, GENDER AND RACE IN ANTEBELLUM POPULAR CULTURE (Cambridge University Press 2014)). [Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein, Document Link (PDF)]
  • Ranking Law Schools with LSATs, Employment Outcomes, and Law Review Citations, 91 IND. L. J. 55 (2015). [SSRN, Document Link (PDF)]
  • Reading Professor Obama: Race and the American Constitutional Tradition (with Stacey Marlise Gahagan), 75 U. PITT. L. REV. 495 (2014). [Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Document Link]
  • Book Review Did Formalism Never Exist?, 92 TEXAS L. REV. 383 (2013) (reviewing Brian Z. Tamanaha, BEYOND THE FORMALIST-REALIST DIVIDE: THE ROLE OF POLITICS IN JUDGING. (2010)). [Document Link (PDF) KF8775 .T36 2010]
  • Book Review When History Mattered, 91 TEXAS L. REV. 601 (2013) (reviewing David Rabban, LAW'S HISTORY : AMERIAN LEGAL THOUGHT AND THE TRANSATLANTIC TURN TO HISTORY (2013)). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, Hein KF380 .R33 2013]
  • Introducing Applied Legal History, 31 LAW & HIST. REV. 233 (2013). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, Hein, Document Link]
  • The Nat Turner Trials, 91 N.C. L. REV. 1817 (2013). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein]
  • "The Most Solemn Act of My Life": Family, Property, Will, and Trust in the Antebellum South (with S.D. Davis), 62 ALA. L. REV. 757 (2011). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein]
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