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Help in determining Justice Hugo Black's accent

Date Submitted: 12-Nov-2009
From: Brian Hauss
Subject: Help in determining Justice Hugo Black's accent
Contact Email: click here to access email

Notice: I'm working as a student research assistant for Professor Noah Feldman at Harvard Law School. Professor Feldman is currently working on a book about FDR's appointees to the Supreme Court and has asked me to provide an analysis of Justice Hugo Black's accent. I'd like to be able to say something more specific than that he had a 'Southern drawl' or an 'Alabama accent'.

Here is a link to an audio recording of Justice Black provided by the Library of Congress's Center for Applied Linguistics:

Here's some relevant background information: Justice Black was born and raised in Ashland, Clay County, Alabama. His parents both grew up in nearby Tallapoosa County. Both of these counties are in the Piedmont region of Alabama, just south of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Justice Black later practiced in law in Birmingham, and of course eventually moved to Washington D.C., where he spent the rest of his life (first as a Senator from Alabama, and then as a Supreme Court Justice). I've read some analysis based on research in the Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States suggesting that Clay and Tallapoosa Counties are on the 'Mississippi-Gulf' accent side of the line dividing the 'Upland' accent region of Alabam from the 'Mississippi Gulf' region, although they're quite close to the border.

If at all possible, I would like someone to please help me confirm that Justice Black's accent was probably a Mississippi-Gulf accent. Of course, any further insights into the peculiarities of his speech would also be very helpful. Longer speech samples can be provided if necessary. Any help anyone could provide would be very much appreciated.