Black Women's Stories and the Criminal Law: Restating the Power of Narrative

Publication Title

UC Davis Law Review

Document Type



This Article seeks to illustrate how narrative methodology, which has been central to Critical Race Theory ("CRT")" and CRF, remains essential to the project of charting the space between law as it is imagined and law as it is experienced. An analysis of the legal encounters of black women like Millie Simpson and my grandmother demonstrates how doctrinal narratives fail to acknowledge the way social constructions of minority identities shape the formal scripts of legal stories. Importantly, then, I seek to illuminate how formal legal narratives often fail to reflect the experiences of marginalized subjects within the criminal legal process.

Like other works of CRT/CRF, this Article uses my grandmother's personal narrative to critique the companion doctrinal narrative of her legal experience. Her story reveals how institutional exercises of power substantially defined her relationship with the law and necessitated a series of responsive moves designed to resist, acquiesce to, or merely survive the contests. The significance of my grandmother's story, however, does not end with her. Thus, this Article attempts to assert the power of personal stories of subordinated individuals to reveal types of experiences, shared by other similarly situated individuals, which expose the stark reality of marginalization and debunk the promises of formal equality."