This course examines the history of law and politics in Africa and the African diaspora over the last two centuries. What role did law play in the colonization of Africa? In its liberation? How did law buttress or challenge ideas about race? How did people of African descent in the western hemisphere use law, and how did they find it used against them? What counts as a 'legal' institution, and who decides? Law can be a shield or a weapon, sometimes both at once. What it does depends on who is using it, and for what purpose. Readings will include history and legal philosophy. Students will use primary sources extensively, including court records.