A few years ago, a lawyer representing a black plaintiff in a discrimination case asked U.S. District Judge William Alsup to recuse himself. Alsup’s roots growing up white in Jim Crow Mississippi, the attorney reasoned, made him incapable of giving his client a fair shake. After some reflection, Alsup denied the lawyer’s motion. In a brief ruling, Alsup wrote that his youth in Mississippi opened, rather than closed his eyes to the cruelty of racism.
In “Won Over: Reflections of a Federal Judge on His Journey from Jim Crow Mississippi,” a newly published memoir from NewSouth Books, Alsup expands on just how his eyes were opened and how his views evolved during the course of the civil rights movement. Alsup recently sat down with Ross Todd, San Francisco bureau chief of The Recorder and Law.com, to discuss the book and his reasons for writing it. The following is an abridged transcript of the conversation, which will air on an upcoming episode of the Legal Speak podcast. It has been edited for length and clarity.
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