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54 DePaul Law Review 755 (2005)


This Article explores the origins of privacy law in early twentieth century America in relation to the legal solidification of Jim Crow in the aftermath of Plessy v. Ferguson. It considers some distinctively southern aspects of the origins of the right to privacy and argues that by viewing privacy, racial defamation, and Jim Crow in relation to each other, we can gain new insights into each-coming to understand that Plessy was not just about controlling space, or property, or even equality but also about controlling identity itself, and coming to see that in its origins, the right to privacy had a deeply racial component. Part II of this Article considers how Plessy implicated legal interests in the control over and construction of racial identity. Part III examines how our understanding of Plessy's treatment of identity interests can be deepened and broadened by reading Plessy in relation to Pavesich, the first American case to recognize a free standing legal interest in a right to privacy. Here, I argue that central to both cases were issues relating to an individual's access to legal means to control his identity. Part IV then elaborates on the relationship between Jim Crow laws and privacy by examining a series of racial defamation cases brought during this same period.