JSP Student Profile

Alexandra Havrylyshyn


Year: Doctorate in JSP

Email: ahavry@berkeley.edu


Alexandra Havrylyshyn is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Robbins Collection in Religious and Civil Law. She completed her Ph.D. and J.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. The basis of her book project "Black Women, Free Soil Suits, and the Civil Law," her dissertation rests on transnational archival research to discover why and how certain women and girls of African descent were able to petition for their freedom in Louisiana state courts--sites usually assumed to be hostile to the individual rights of women and people of color. Her study reveals that before the Civil War, courts in the Deep South did not uniformly dismiss the claims of enslaved people. Alexandra's work appears in California Legal History, and is forthcoming in Canada's Legal Past (University of Calgary Press).


Ph.D., Jurisprudence and Social Policy, UC Berkeley
J.D., UC Berkeley School of Law, 2018
M.A., History, McGill University, 2011
B.A., History and Political Science, McGill University, 2008

Dissertation Abstract:

Recent literature demonstrates the surprising finding that within the legal system of the antebellum South, there were pathways to freedom for select individuals. Much research has focused on Missouri, a borderland between free and slave states, whence Dred Scott’s claim emerged. This project focuses not on borderlands but on the Deep South—in global context. Between 1847 and 1850, a flurry of freedom suits descended upon the First District Court of New Orleans. Women and girls were the main legal actors. As domestic servants, they had been taken to France—a country whose legal institutions did not uphold slavery. This socio-legal study examines how they developed a legal consciousness, how they accessed justice, and how race and gender mattered. Relying on archival research in sites spanning from California, to New Orleans, to France, this study finds that these protagonists did not act alone; they were embedded in a transnational community of property-owning free people of color. This study also concludes that the mixed civil/common law jurisdiction of Louisiana was distinct from the rest of the United States in ways that mattered for enslaved people. Growing Anglicization of the legal system there shut off pathways to individual emancipation. These findings have implications for the fields of comparative law, legal history, and for social justice today.

Academic Experiences:

"How a California Settler Unsettled the Proslavery Legislature of Antebellum Louisiana,” California Legal History 14 (Dec. 2019), 195-239.

“Practicing Law in the ‘Lawyerless’ Colony of New France,” eds. Lyndsay Campbell, Ted McCoy and Mélanie Methot, Canada’s Legal Past: Looking Forward, Looking Back (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, forthcoming).

Graduate Student Representative, Board of Directors, American Society for Legal History, 2017-2019
Student Director, Berkeley Law Mindfulness Group, 2017-2018

Employment Experiences:

Instructor, UC Berkeley-Extension, Race, Gender, and Property Law, Fall 2019, Fall 2018
Graduate Student Instructor (G.S.I.), UC Berkeley, Property and Liberty, 2016
G.S.I., UC Berkeley, Survey of U.S. Legal and Constitutional History, 2016
G.S.I., UC Berkeley, Comparative Perspectives on Norms and Legal Traditions, 2015
G.S.I., UC Berkeley, History and Practice of Human Rights, 2013, 2012

Extern, the Hon. Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Supreme Court of California, Fall 2019
Tenants' Rights Workshop Volunteer, East Bay Community Law Center, 2017-18
East Bay Dreamer Clinic Volunteer, East Bay Community Law Center, 2017


American Association of University Women Dissertation Fellowship, 2017-2018
Kenneth and Dorothy Hill Bancroft Library Study Award, 2017-2018
William Nelson Cromwell Fellowship for Early Career Scholars, 2016
Austin Sarat Award for Best Graduate Student Paper, 2013
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship, 2012-2015