Alfred L. Brophy

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. This year he is teaching a seminar in southern legal history in the fall and property and trusts and estates in the spring.

Alfred Brophy has written extensively on race and property law in colonial, antebellum and early Twentieth Century America. 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). 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 gave a distinguished lecture ("Property and Progress: Antebellum Landscape Art and Property Law" (PDF)) in 2008 at the University of the Pacific's McGeorge Law School, which was published in the McGeorge Law Review. In March 2010, he delivered 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), which was published in the North Carolina Law Review in September 2011. Also in September 2011 he delivered the Hendricks lecture at Washington and Lee University, on "the jurisprudence of slavery, freedom, and Union at Washington College, 1831 to 1861." In March 2012, Brophy delivered 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." On February 12, 2013 he delivered Carolina Law's annual Murphy Lecture, on slavery and constitutional thought at UNC before the Civil War. On November 5, 2014 he delivered the B.C. Franklin lecture at the University of Tulsa, on African American intellectuals and the movement for equality in the early 20th century. 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.

Brophy is completing a book on antebellum jurisprudence, tentatively titled University, Court, and Slave, which will be published soon by Oxford University Press. He is also co-editing with Leslie Harris, Susan Ashmore, Mark Auslander, and James T. Campbell, a volume on slavery and universities, 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 rankingsempirical 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, and the idea of equality in early twentieth century black thought and its influence on the civil rights movement.

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.

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.

Selected Publications

Show All Publications

  • A COMPANION TO AMERICAN LEGAL HISTORY (co-editor with Sally E. Hadden) (Wiley-Blackwell 2013). [KF352 .C66 2013]
  • 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 World Made by Laws and the Laws Made by the World of the Old South, in SIGNPOSTS: NEW DIRECTIONS IN SOUTHERN LEGAL HISTORY at 219 (S. Hadden and P. Minter, eds.) (University of Georgia Press 2013). [KF352.A2 S57 2013]
  • "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]
  • INTEGRATING SPACES: PROPERTY LAW AND RACE (with Alberto Lopez and Kali Murray) (Aspen Publishers 2010). [KF5740 .B76 2011]
  • REPARATIONS PRO AND CON (Oxford University Press 2006) (paperback 2008). [SSRN KF4757 .B66 2006]
  • RECONSTRUCTING THE DREAMLAND: THE TULSA RIOT OF 1921-RACE, REPARATIONS, RECONCILIATION (Oxford Univ. Press 2002) (paperback 2003). [F704.T92 B76 2002]
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