Our Students - Profiles

Alexandra Havrylyshyn


Year: Advanced to Candidacy (ABD) - JSP

Email: ahavry@berkeley.edu


Ph.D. Candidate, JSP, UC Berkeley (ABD June 2015)
Dissertation in Progress, "Free Under the Laws of France: How Enslaved Women and Girls Argued for Liberty in Louisiana Courts, 1835-1857," under the supervision of Christopher Tomlins (Chair), Laurent Mayali, Rebecca McLennan, and Dylan Penningroth
J.D. Candidate, Berkeley Law, Class of 2018 (First Year Distinction)
M.A., History, McGill University (Dean's Honour List), 2011
B.A., History and Political Science, McGill University (First Class Joint Honours), 2008


American Association of University Women Dissertation Completion Fellowship (2017-2018)
Kenneth and Dorothy Hill Bancroft Library Study Award (2017-2018)
Tulane University Global South Research Grant (2017-2018)
American Jurisprudence Award in Legal Profession (2017)
U.C. Berkeley Center for Race and Gender Grant (2017)
Cromwell Fellowship, awarded with the advice of the American Society for Legal History (2016)
Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies Fellowship (2014-2015)
Austin Sarat Award for Best Graduate Student Paper, " 'We Contest Her Status for Her': Resisting the Legality of Slavery in the French Atlantic (1740)," (2013)
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship (2012-2015)
Hildebrand Canadian Studies Research Fellowship (2012)


North American Constitutional and Legal History
Critical Race Theory
French Atlantic History
Global History
Legal Ethics/Legal Profession
Property Law
Mindfulness in Law


A descendant of refugees, I experienced a multicultural upbringing. I speak English, French, German, and Ukrainian fluently. In my spare time, I enjoy meditating, being in nature, and exploring the world.

Academic Experiences:

“Barristers, Attorneys, and Legal Practitioners: A Guide,” revised and resubmitted to Canada’s Legal Past (University of Calgary Press).

"Troublesome Jacques: How the Power of Attorney Threatened the Powers of New France," preparing for final revision and resubmission to the William and Mary Quarterly.
“Role Morality: Why a Prominent Pro-Slavery Antebellum Louisiana Lawyer Eulogized Abraham Lincoln,” in progress

"Practicing Law in a Lawyer-less Colony: The Curious Case of Jacques Nouette de le Poufellerie," Canada's Legal Past: Future Directions in Canadian Legal History, Calgary, AB (2017)
"Troublesome Trials in New France: The Itinerary of an Ancien Régime Legal Practitioner," French Colonial Historical Society, Aix-en-Provence, France (2017)
"Invoking the Freedom of French Soil in Antebellum Louisiana: An Atlantic Archival Prospectus," Law and Society Association, New Orleans, LA (2016)
"Practitioners and Procurators in the Litigious Society of New France," Emerging Histories of the French Atlantic, Omohundro Institute, Williamsburg, VA (2015)
"Contesting the Status of Slavery in Early Canada," American Society for Legal History SRC, Denver, CO (2014)
" 'We Contest Her Status for Her': Resisting the Legality of Slavery in the French Atlantic (1740)," Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, London, U.K. (2013)
"Troublesome Trials in New France: The Itinerary of an Ancien Régime Legal Practitioner, 1740-1743," Canadian Law and Society Association, Waterloo, ON (May 2012)

Elected Graduate Student Representative to the Board of Directors, American Society for Legal History (2017-2019)
Peer Reviewer, Law and History Review
Berkeley Law Mindfulness Group Student Coordinator (2017-2018)

Employment Experiences:

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), for various courses at UC Berkeley, including: "Property and Liberty" (Fall 2016), "American Legal and Constitutional History" (Spring 2016), "Comparative Legal Norms and Traditions" UC Berkeley (Spring 2015), and "The History and Practice of Human Rights" (Fall 2012; Fall 2013)
Invited Participant, Jordan Saunders Interdisciplinary Summer Workshop for University Instructors in
Constitutional History, Stanford Law School (July 2014)

Tenants' Rights Workshop-East Bay Community Law Center (2017)
East Bay Dreamer Clinic (2017)
International Research Assistant, German Bundestag, Berlin (2010)
Intern, Academic and Research Relations, Public Affairs, Canadian Embassy, Washington, D.C. (2009)
Grant-Writer, YWCA Montreal (2007)

Website: http://grad.berkeley.edu/news/headlines/honors-awards/american-fellowships-awarded-to-four-at-berkeley/

Dissertation Abstract:

The big question animating my research is how oppressed people can use law to resist the very legal systems that were constructed against them. How does mobility across jurisdictions create opportunities? I first explored this question as a Master’s student in History at McGill University, through the lens of a 1740 freedom suit submitted by a Native American woman to an early French American court. While her suit was ultimately unsuccessful, it dragged on for weeks and created a record which preserves the pressing debates around the legality of slavery in various imperial spaces: metropolitan France, where the French free soil maxim prevailed; Native territory, where slavery was practiced but not inter-generationally; and Martinique, a slave-based plantation economy.

This project led me to more deeply exploring the role of the legal profession in an early colonial society. In "Troublesome Jacques: How the Power of Attorney Threatened the Powers of New France," (currently under review with The William and Mary Quarterly), I argue that in an otherwise highly censored society, courts of law were one of the few spaces where people could openly express themselves.

Titled, "Free Under the Laws of France: How Enslaved Women and Girls Argued for Liberty in Louisiana Courts, 1835-1857" my dissertation examines the surprising finding that in New Orleans, the epi-center of the 19th-century internal American slave trade, at least twenty enslaved women and girls of color successfully sued for their freedom in Louisiana courts on the basis of having touched the free soil of France. My research sites span from New Orleans, to France, to the Bancroft Library in California.

Chapter 1 lays out the French free soil argument. While state legislation weighed in favor of continued enslavement, petitioners grounded their arguments in higher law: constitutional and international. Chapters 2 and 3 construct a critical geography of black legal consciousness in New Orleans and Paris, respectively. Chapter 4 examines paradoxes of legal representation. While the lawyer who represented petitioners bought and sold other enslaved people for profit, the lawyer who represented slave owners firmly believed in a slave's right to legally contest her status. Chapter 5 concludes with an investigation of the white male judge who almost always ruled in favor of freedom. If but for a moment on the eve of the Civil War, laws favoring human liberty prevailed over laws favoring continued enslavement.

My findings affirm Orlando Patterson’s thesis that manumission (or the freeing of individual slaves while the institution of slavery persists) was an integral part of slave law. However, I find that individuals were able to exploit these very laws for their own betterment, especially if given the opportunity to travel. Furthermore, my examination of French-language sources both in New Orleans and France suggests that free soil claims like Dred Scott’s may rest on a French legal tradition whose traces are embedded in not always easily accessible archives, whether local or international. In this way, I bring together the methods of legal history from below, with the methods of transnational history.

Curriculum Vitae
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