Monday, September 03, 2001

Test fails to link slave, justice

The Associated Press

        DNA tests performed on descendants of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan and Robert Harlan, a former slave and successful Cincinnati businessman, show it is unlikely the men were related.

        John Marshall Harlan was a Kentucky native whose family owned and eventually freed Robert Harlan.

        The test results appear to close a chapter in history that has intrigued researchers as well as members of both Harlan clans.

        “It's just an anecdote of history,” said Robert Jackson Harlan Jr., a descendant of Robert Harlan, who submitted a blood sample for the test.

        The DNA tests, performed by a lab in California, were coordinated by Linda Przybyszewski, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati and author of a biography of Justice Harlan. The results were made public Friday.

        Ms. Przybyszewski said the justice's relationship with Robert Harlan was one of the many puzzles she uncovered during research.

        Justice Harlan, an early proponent of civil rights, was a white man who was comfortable around blacks at a time when most other men of his race were not. He penned the lone dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, which created the “separate but equal” standard.


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