Belmont Law Review


As the nation pauses to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, it is imperative that we study the epic civil rights history of Memphis which preceded this dreadful event, especially in the legal academy. Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ), with its focus on laws, legal processes, and legal actors, and the extent to which they can be therapeutic or antitherapeutic, is a fitting academic vantage point. The TJ repertoire of principles and techniques and the “genius loci,” a spirit of time and place which comes from the field of historic preservation, are teaching rubrics with which to assist law students to reflect upon the tightrope which Dr. King walked in 1968 Memphis and to prepare them for modern day civil rights challenges. Dr. King’s soul remains in Memphis. According to law professor John Nivala, “[T]he places where we work and live have a spirit which enlivens our present by reminding us of our past and anticipating our future.” The places where law students walk and study have a past and future too, none more venerable than the Downtown Memphis Corridor, where civil rights battles were fought and won, and where Dr. King died.