Paul Finkelman
Born (1949-11-15) November 15, 1949 (age 73)
Brooklyn, New York
EducationPh.D. University of Chicago 1976 MA University of Chicago 1972 BA Syracuse University 1971
Occupation(s)historian, educator, author, speaker, legal scholar

Paul Finkelman (born November 15, 1949) is an American legal historian. He is the author or editor of more than 50 books on American legal and constitutional history, slavery, general American history and baseball. In addition, he has authored more than 200 scholarly articles on these and many other subjects. From 2017 - 2022, Finkelman served as the President and Chancellor of Gratz College, Melrose Park, Pennsylvania (the oldest independent Jewish college in the United States).[1]


Finkelman was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Watertown, where he attended public schools. He received his undergraduate degree in American studies from Syracuse University in 1971, and his master's degree and doctorate in American history from the University of Chicago in 1972 and 1976. At Chicago, he was a student of Stanley Nider Katz and John Hope Franklin and a contributor to the volume, The Facts of Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of John Hope Franklin, edited by Eric Anderson & Alfred A. Moss, Jr. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c.1991). Finkelman was also a Fellow in Law and Humanities at Harvard Law School, 1982–83.

Academic positions and honors

Finkelman has held many positions teaching law and history including Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota (Robert E. and Susan T. Rydell Visiting Professor 2022-23),[2] Albany Law School (President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy and Senior Fellow in the Government Law Center), University of Tulsa College of Law (Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law, 1999–2006), University of Akron School of Law (John F. Seiberling Professor, 1998–99), Cleveland-Marshall College of Law (Baker & Hostetler Visiting Professor, 1997–98), Hamline Law School (Distinguished Visiting Professor, spring 1997), University of Miami (Charlton W. Tebeau Visiting Research Professor, 1996), Chicago-Kent College of Law (fall 1995), Virginia Tech (1992–95), Brooklyn Law School, (1990–92), SUNY Binghamton (1984–1990), University of Texas (1978–84), University of Texas Law School (Spring 1982), Washington University in St. Louis (Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellow, 1977–78) and University of California, Irvine (1976–77).

He received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, the Library of Congress, Yale University, Harvard Law School, and the American Council of Learned Societies. American institutions at which he was a resident scholar include: Transylvania University, Mississippi State University, the University of Seattle School of Law, and St. Bonaventure University. In 2009, Finkelman gave the Nathan A. Huggins lectures at the W.E.B. DuBois Center at Harvard University. His 2018 book Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation's Highest Court[3] was based on these lectures. Since 2001, Finkelman has been a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. He received the Joseph L. Andrews Award from American Association of Law Libraries in 1986,[4] and in 1995, was named Historian of the Year by the Virginia Social Science Association.[citation needed]

Finkelman has also lectured on behalf of the U.S. State Department in Colombia, Germany, Japan, and China. He spent part of the fall 2008 semester at Osaka University in Japan, as a visiting research scholar.[5] He was twice a fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, resident at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan, in 2001 and in 2011–12.[6]

In 2012, Finkelman was the John Hope Franklin Visiting Professor of American Legal History at Duke Law School. In spring 2014, he was the Justice Pike Hall, Jr. Visiting Professor at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Throughout 2014 and 2015, Finkelman was a Senior Fellow at the Penn Program on Democracy, Citizenship, and Constitutionalism at the University of Pennsylvania and a Scholar-in-Residence at the National Constitution Center.[7] In 2015, he was appointed the Ariel F. Sallows Visiting Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law. In 2017 he was the John E. Murray Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.[8] In the Fall of 2017 he held a Fulbright Chair in Human Rights and Social Justice at the University of Ottawa. In 2022-23, he was a research affiliate at the Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.[9]

From 2003 to 2006, Finkelman was President of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Memorial Foundation. In 2009, he was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society. Since 2003, he has been a board member of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Abolition, and Resistance at Yale University. Since 2001, he has been the scholar/convener of the annual scholarly conference of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.

Expert witness and analyst

Called an "excellent legal historian",[10] even by scholars who disagree with him, Finkelman was an expert witness against Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in Glassroth v. Moore (Al. 2002)(the "Ten Commandments" case), as well as an expert witness for the plaintiff in Popov v. Hayashi (S.F. Sup. Ct. CA, 2002) (determining who owned Barry Bonds's 73rd home run ball). Professor Finkelman has also been part of amicus curiae briefs for cases related to Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, gay marriage in New York State, affirmative action, and separation of church and state. In 2013, he was the lead named amicus in briefs before the Supreme Court involving affirmative action (Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action[11]) and prayer delivered at public meetings (Town of Greece v. Galloway[12]). The U.S. Supreme Court has cited Finkelman six times, including in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's majority opinion in Timbs v. Indiana (2019).[13][14][15][16][17][18]

In April 2007, Finkelman appeared at Harvard Law School for a retrial of the Dred Scott v. Sandford case.[19] He was an expert witness for Sandford.[20] Attorney Kenneth Starr was another expert witness before the mock court of federal justices, led by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Finkelman has also appeared in several historical films, including Ken Burns's documentary on Thomas Jefferson (for which he was invited to the Clinton White House), and a documentary about the Barry Bonds' home run ball, Up for Grabs. Television and radio programs which have used him as an analyst have been broadcast on NPR, PBS, CNN, and ESPN. Finkelman has served on numerous editorial and advisory boards, as well as delivered more than 150 papers and lectures in the United States, and in Austria, Canada, China, Colombia (SA), France, Germany, Ireland (Eire), Israel, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.


Finkelman has published more than 50 books and hundreds of scholarly articles. His interests include slavery, race, civil rights, civil liberties, the United States Constitution and constitutional law, and baseball. Finkelman was listed as one of the ten most-cited legal historians in Brian Leiter's survey of most-cited law professors by specialty from 2000 to 2014.[21]

Finkelman has also written numerous entries for encyclopedias and reference works. More than eighty short book reviews he has written have appeared in a wide variety of scholarly journals. His essays, op-eds and blogs have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post,The Atlantic, Washington Monthly, Los Angeles Review of Books, Jewish Review of Books, USA Today, The Baltimore Sun, the Huffington Post,, and other non-scholarly avenues. Among them have been about Thomas Jefferson's relationship with slavery[22] and several concerning the American Civil War in the Disunion section of The New York Times' The Opinionator blog.[23] While at the SUNY Binghamton, Finkelman edited the 18-volume Articles on American Slavery, collecting nearly 400 important articles on slavery in the United States, which Garland Publishing published in 1989. Finkelman also edited The Political Lincoln: An Encyclopedia (2009), published by CQ Press, and is an advisor to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.[24] He is the editor-in-chief of the book series, Routledge Historical Americans, co-editor-in-chief of Studies in Southern Legal History at the University of Georgia Press, and co-editor of Law Politics and Society in the Midwest at Ohio University Press.

His 2018 book Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Courts, which documents the racist personal and legal practices of pre-Civil War Supreme Court Chief Justices John Marshall and Roger B. Taney and Associate Justice Joseph Story, provided evidentiary impetus for the change of name of UIC John Marshall Law School to the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law,[25][26][27][28] and the change of the name Cleveland-Marshall Law School to Cleveland State University College of Law.[29][30]

Selected works


  1. ^ "Dr. Paul Finkelman Appointed College President By Gratz College Board of Governors | Gratz College". Archived from the original on December 5, 2017. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  2. ^ 2022-2023 Rydell Professorship
  3. ^ Finkelman, Paul (2018). Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation's Highest Court. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674051218.
  4. ^ "Joseph L. Andrews Legal Literature Award". Archived from the original on August 6, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  5. ^ "Paul Finkleman". Archived from the original on January 5, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
  6. ^ "Lawprof claims that Indian-themed mascots are illegal". Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
  7. ^ "National Constitution Center Scholars Advisory Panel". Archived from the original on February 9, 2014. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  8. ^ "Paul Finkelman | PittLaw". Archived from the original on December 6, 2017. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  9. ^ Finkelman, Paul, "The Many Faces of Felix Frankfurter: On Brad Snyder’s 'Democratic Justice'", Los Angeles Review of Books, December 13, 2022
  10. ^ "The Volokh Conspiracy". Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  11. ^ Brief of Paul Finkelman and 75 Other Historians and Scholars as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents, January 4, 2016
  12. ^ "Brief of Paul Finkelman, Steven K. Green, Michael I. Meyerson, John A. Ragosta, and 36 Other Legal Historians and Scholars of Religion and American Law as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents" (PDF). Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  13. ^ "The Ten Commandments on the Courthouse Lawn and Elsewhere", 73 Fordham Law Review 1477–1520 (2005). Cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Van Orden v. Perry (2005).
  14. ^ It Really Was About a Well Regulated Militia", 59 Syracuse Law Review 267-282 (2008). Cited in Justice Breyer's dissenting opinion in McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010).
  15. ^ Defending Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Old South. Boston, Massachusetts: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003. Cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (2013).
  16. ^ "Brief of Paul Finkelman, Steven K. Green, Michael I. Meyerson, John A. Ragosta, and 36 Other Legal Historians and Scholars of Religion and American Law as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents" (PDF). Cited by U.S. Supreme Court in Town of Greece v. Galloway (2014).
  17. ^ "Timbs v. Indiana, Opinion of the Court" (PDF).
  19. ^ "Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice » 150th Anniversary of Dred Scott v. Sandford: Race, Citizenship & Justice". Archived from the original on February 5, 2007. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  20. ^ Was Dred Scott Correctly Decided? An "Expert Report" For the Defendant, 12 Lewis & Clark Law Review 1219–1252 (2008).
  21. ^ "Brian Leiter Most Cited Law Professors by Specialty, 2000-2007". Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  22. ^ The New York Times, December 1, 2012, p. A25.
  23. ^ [1] Archived December 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ [2] Archived October 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "UIC renaming John Marshall Law School" by Stefano Esposito, Chicago Sun-Times, May 21, 2021. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  26. ^ "Editorial: A law school discounts John Marshall’s positive legacy" Chicago Tribune, May 25, 2021. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  27. ^ Adams, Susan (May 21, 2021). "Why Chief Justice John Marshall's Name Was Dropped From University Of Illinois Chicago Law School". Forbes. Retrieved August 25, 2023.
  28. ^ Finkelman, Paul (May 21, 2021). "America's 'Great Chief Justice' Was an Unrepentant Slaveholder". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 25, 2023.
  29. ^ "Cleveland State University changing name of Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, named for former chief justice who owned slaves"
  30. ^ Sloan, Karen (November 18, 2022). ""U.S. law school changes name to drop early Supreme Court justice". Reuters. Retrieved August 25, 2023.