In this Q&A, Assistant Professor of Government Justin Peck speaks about his research interests, teaching at Wesleyan and road-tripping across the United States. (Brandon Sides ’18 contributed to this article.)
Q: Professor Peck, what are your primary areas of research?
A: My dissertation attempts to explain when and why post-WWII Congresses enacted legal constraints on executive authority. And that’s now my primary area of research; the second area of my research concerns when and how the Republican Party’s position on civil rights issues has changed since the Civil War.
Q: What are your current projects?
A: I’m working on a book manuscript with a co-author, Jeff Jenkins, who’s at the University of Southern California, and who was my dissertation chair. Right now, we’re looking at every single legislative proposal—succeeded or failed—addressing black civil rights, and how members of the Republican Party in Congress positioned themselves around these bills. What we see after the Civil War is lots of hope, some successes, more failures, but a progressive narrowing of the ambitions and goals of the Republican Party. Eventually—right around the end of the 19th century—they decided to just ignore civil rights. The idea of the research is to tell the political history of black civil rights from the end of the Civil War to present day. We have two books in progress: one stretches from 1861 to 1918, which we call the first Civil Rights era. The other one goes from 1919 to 2016, and that’s the second Civil Rights era.