Justice: Her changing skin color and features over the centuries.

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Jan. 21 2011 5:27 AM

Who Does Justice Look Like?

Her changing features—and skin color—over the centuries.

Cick here to launch a slideshow on how the image of Lady Justice have changed over time.

Justice Antonin Scalia recently reminded us that when the 14th Amendment was drafted in the 19th century, it did not focus on ensuring that women were entitled to equal protection of the law. And yet women have long been used as the symbol of the law—as the image of Justice, a figure dating back centuries and deployed in many countries to mark a courthouse.

That worldwide tradition offered up hundreds of images of white women in paintings, prints, and statues. Then, in the 20th century, as real women of all colors gained access to courts, questions emerged about which women could be the models for Justice. In government-sponsored courtroom art, what skin tones could artists use? What scenes could properly adorn new courthouse walls?

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Dennis Curtis and Judith Resnik are professors at Yale Law School and the authors of the new book Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms.