When a Supreme Court justice achieves legendary status, it’s usually for majority opinions they’ve written. However, at least one has become famous for their acumen in dissent.

John Marshall Harlan II is best known for his foresight when dissenting in Plessy v. Ferguson. Our in-house historian Dr. John Foster will lead you through Harlan’s life, jurisprudence, and historical context. See how Harlan’s opinions — even in dissent — predicted legal arguments during the Civil Rights movement 60 years later.

The first lecture in this series focused on Chief Justice John Marshal. It can be watched in its entirety on our YouTube channel.

In addition to being a reference librarian, Foster has a doctorate degree in history. He has taught history at both high school and college levels. Previously, he has led series on the Battles of World War IIthe Cold Warthe American RevolutionThe Vietnam Wars, and US Presidents of the 20th Century at the library.