Alfred Brophy
D. Paul Jones Chairholder in Law

Alfred Brophy


  • 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. 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 extensive writing spans empirical and quantitative methods to intellectual history (jurisprudence). His books are Reconstructing the Dreamland: The Tulsa Riot of 1921, Race, Reparations, Reconciliation (Oxford University Press, 2002), Reparations Pro and Con (Oxford University Press, 2006), and an expansive volume on antebellum jurisprudence, University, Court, and Slave: Proslavery Thought in Southern Colleges and Courts and the Coming of Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2016). He is the lead co-author with Deborah Gordon, Norman Stein, and Caryl Yzenbaard of Experiencing Trusts and Estates (West Academic, 2017) and 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 in law reviews such as the Boston University Law ReviewColumbia Law ReviewIndiana Law JournalJournal of Legal EducationLaw and Social InquiryMichigan Law ReviewNorth 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" 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  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; 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; the Discourse in Democracy lecture at Texas State University in March 2016; and the J. Alston Atkins Lecture in Constitutional Law at Winston-Salem State University in November 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. And 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.  In addition, he is co-editing with Leslie Harris and James T. Campbell, a volume on slavery and universities forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press in spring 2018, co-editing with Mark E. Brandon the Cambridge Companion to the Declaration of Independence forthcoming in 2018, 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.  The expansive volume of Pastorius' writings will appear from Penn State Press in 2018. Some of his other current research is on the trials and legislative response to the Nat Turner rebellion, implied trust beneficiaries, monument and cemetery lawlaw 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, the evolution of trust law in response to the nineteenth century's market revolution,constitutional and legal thought in pre-Civil War oratoryespecially in collegesthe eugenics movement"applied" legal historyand pedagogy.

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. He also enjoys photographing courthouses and other historic sites. His photographs have appeared as cover art and illustrations in books published by Oxford, Simon and Schuster, and Wiley. 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.


  • Book Review Slaves as Plaintiffs, 115 MICH. L. REV. 895 (2017) (reviewing Lea VanderVelde, REDEMPTION SONGS: SUING FOR FREEDOM BEFORE DRED SCOTT (Oxford University Press 2014)). [WestlawLexis/NexisDocument Link KF4545.S5 V36 2014]
  • The Road to the Gettysburg Address, 43 FLA. ST. U. L. REV.  831 (2016). [WestlawLexis/NexisHeinDocument Link ]
  • Land, Slaves and Bonds: Probate in the Pre-Civil War Shenandoah Valley (with D. Thie), 119 W. VA. L. REV. 345 (2016). [WestlawLexis/NexisSSRNHein]
  • The Eugenics Movement in North Carolina (with E. Troutman), 94 N.C. L. REV. 1871 (2016). [WestlawLexis/NexisSSRNHeinBEPress]
  • The Market, Utility, and Slavery in Southern Legal Thought, in SLAVERY'S CAPITALISM: A NEW HISTORY OF AMERICAN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (S. Beckert & S. Rockman eds.) (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press 2016). [E441 .S538 2016]
  • [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/NexisSSRNHein]
  • The Nat Turner Trials, 91 N.C. L. REV. 1817 (2013). [WestlawLexis/NexisSSRNHein]
  • "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). [WestlawLexis/NexisSSRNHein]

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