A Defiant Life: Thurgood Marshall and the Persistence of Racism in America

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Thurgood Marshall's extraordinary contribution to civil rights and overcoming racism is more topical than ever, as the national debate on race and the overturning of affirmative action policies make headlines nationwide. Howard Ball, author of eighteen books on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary, has done copious research for this incisive biography to present an authoritative portrait of Marshall the jurist.

Born to a middle-class black family in "Jim Crow" Baltimore at the turn of the century, Marshall's race informed his worldview from an early age. He was rejected by the University of Maryland Law School because of the color of his skin. He then attended Howard University's Law School, where his racial consciousness was awakened by the brilliant lawyer and activist Charlie Houston. Marshall suddenly knew what he wanted to be: a civil rights lawyer, one of Houston's "social engineers." As the chief attorney for the NAACP, he developed the strategy for the legal challenge to racial discrimination. His soaring achievements and his lasting impact on the nation's legal system--as the NAACP's advocate, as a federal appeals court judge, as President Lyndon Johnson's solicitor general, and finally as the first African American Supreme Court Justice--are symbolized by Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case that ended legal segregation in public schools.

Using race as the defining theme, Ball spotlights Marshall's genius in working within the legal system to further his lifelong commitment to racial equality. With the help of numerous, previously unpublished sources, Ball presents a lucid account of Marshall's illustrious career and his historic impact on American civil rights.
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About the author

Howard Ball, professor of political science and University Scholar at the University of Vermont, is a leading expert on the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the author of eighteen previous books and dozens of articles in leading political science journals and law reviews. He lives in Richmond, Vermont, with his wife, Carol, their dogs, Max and Casey, and a quarterhorse named Stormin' Norman. Their three daughters, Melissa, Sheryl, and Sue, visit on occasion.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Three Rivers Press
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Published on
Apr 6, 2011
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Pages
464
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ISBN
9780307777980
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Lawyers & Judges
History / African American
Social Science / Discrimination & Race Relations
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The National Book Award winning history of how racist ideas were created, spread, and deeply rooted in American society.

Some Americans insist that we're living in a post-racial society. But racist thought is not just alive and well in America--it is more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis.

As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation's racial inequities.

In shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope.

Praise for Stamped from the Beginning:

"We often describe a wonderful book as 'mind-blowing' or 'life-changing' but I've found this rarely to actually be the case. I found both descriptions accurate for Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped from the Beginning... I will never look at racial discrimination again after reading this marvellous, ambitious, and clear-sighted book." - George Saunders, Financial Times, Best Books of 2017

"Ambitious, well-researched and worth the time of anyone who wants to understand racism." --Seattle Times

"A deep (and often disturbing) chronicling of how anti-black thinking has entrenched itself in the fabric of American society." --The Atlantic

Winner of the 2016 National Book Award for NonfictionA New York Times BestsellerA Washington Post BestsellerOn President Obama's Black History Month Recommended Reading List
Finalist for the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award for NonfictionNamed one of the Best Books of the Year by the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Chicago Review of Books, The Root, Buzzfeed, Bustle, and Entropy

A provocative, and timely, solution for ridding America of the traces of Jim Crow policies to create a truly post-racial landscape

When America inaugurated its first African American president, in 2009, many wondered if the country had finally become a "post-racial" society. Was this the dawning of a new era, in which America, a nation nearly severed in half by slavery, and whose racial fault lines are arguably among its most enduring traits, would at last move beyond race with the election of Barack Hussein Obama?





In Ghosts of Jim Crow, F. Michael Higginbotham convincingly argues that America remains far away from that imagined utopia. Indeed, the shadows of Jim Crow era laws and attitudes continue to perpetuate insidious, systemic prejudice and racism in the 21st century. Higginbotham’s extensive research demonstrates how laws and actions have been used to maintain a racial paradigm of hierarchy and separation—both historically, in the era of lynch mobs and segregation, and today—legally, economically, educationally and socially.





Using history as a roadmap, Higginbotham arrives at a provocative solution for ridding the nation of Jim Crow’s ghost, suggesting that legal and political reform can successfully create a post-racial America, but only if it inspires whites and blacks to significantly alter behaviors and attitudes of race-based superiority and victimization. He argues that America will never achieve its full potential unless it truly enters a post-racial era, and believes that time is of the essence as competition increases globally.

During his thirty-four year tenure as a Justice of the Supreme Court, Hugo L. Black demonstrated, in the words of one of his colleagues, "a true passion for the Constitution." At a moment's notice, in front of visiting students or a clutch of legal dignitaries, the Judge would whip his tattered copy of the Constitution from his coat pocket, flip through it to a particular passage and then, in a high voice, read the passage con vivace. And though Black began his political career in Alabama as the candidate of the Ku Klux Klan--with their help in 1926 he became a U.S. Senator--thirty years later, he would argue forcefully for an end to segregation in the South. In Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel Warrior, distinguished writer Howard Ball draws from Black's extensive files in the Library of Congress and on interviews with his colleagues on the Court, his law clerks, and his family to illuminate the enigmatic career of a man who became one of the twentieth century's most vigilant defenders of freedoms and liberty. Ball's examination of Black's life reveals a consummate politician who kept, in a safe beside his desk, the names, addresses, and backgrounds of all those who gave Black support from the time he ran for the county solicitor's job in Jefferson County, Alabama, through his two terms as a U.S. Senator. A fervent New Deal advocate, Black lent his support to F.D.R.'s court packing plan, and was one of the few who stood with the President until the measure's defeat in 1937. Less than one month later, F.D.R. rewarded Black by nominating him to the Supreme Court. Soon after Black's confirmation by the Senate, the story of his Klan membership spread across the nation, prompting Time magazine to write that "Hugo won't have to buy a robe, he can dye his white one black." One of Black's early opinions for the Court, however, changed most of the negative opinion about him. Writing for the majority in Chambers v. Florida, Black and his colleagues overturned charges against four African-American men unjustly accused of murder. In addition to Black's political and judicial career, Ball captures some of the great legal minds at work--Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall, Felix Frankfurter, William O. Douglas, John M. Harlan II, and William J. Brennan--and their encounters with the tough Justice who was an immovable force when engaged in a constitutional battle. From Brown v. Board of Education and the first tests of the power of the federal courts to implement the Brown decision, to the height of McCarthyism and the national hysteria about Communism, to New York Times v. United States, the famous Pentagon Papers case in 1971 (Black's last opinion for the Court which defended a newspaper's First Amendment rights), Black emerges as a staunch defender of federalism and the primacy of the First Amendment, a strict, literal interpreter of the Constitution, and always proud to be a member of the Supreme Court. Throughout his life, Hugo Black's cockiness, sternness, and stubborn determination won him many critics. On every occasion, as Howard Ball shows, Black proved his critics wrong. He became a major presence in the Senate and one of the great Justices ever to sit on the Supreme Court.
While the specifics of individual wars vary, they share a common epilogue: the task of finding and identifying the "disappeared." The Bosnian war of the early 1990s, which destroyed the sovereign state of Yugoslavia, is no exception. In Working in the Killing Fields, Howard Ball focuses on recent developments in the technology of forensic science and on the work of forensic professionals in Bosnia following that conflict. Ball balances the examination of complex features of new forensic technology with insights into the lives of the men and women from around the globe who are tasked with finding and excavating bodies and conducting pathological examinations. Having found the disappeared, however, these same pathologists must then also explain the cause of death to international-court criminal prosecutors and surviving families of the victims. Ball considers the physical dangers these professionals regularly confront while performing their site excavations, as well as the emotional pain, including post-traumatic stress disorder, they contend with while in Bosnia and after they leave the killing fields.

Working in the Killing Fields integrates discussion of cutting-edge forensic technology into a wider view of what these searches mean, the damage they do to people, and the healing and good they bring to those in search of answers. Even though the Balkan wars took place two decades ago, the fields where so many men, women, and children died still have gruesome and disturbing stories to tell. Ball puts the spotlight on the forensic professionals tasked with telling that story and on what their work means to them as individuals and to the wider world's understanding of genocide and war.

Over the past hundred years, average life expectancy in America has nearly doubled, due largely to scientific and medical advances, but also as a consequence of safer working conditions, a heightened awareness of the importance of diet and health, and other factors. Yet while longevity is celebrated as an achievement in modern civilization, the longer people live, the more likely they are to succumb to chronic, terminal illnesses. In 1900, the average life expectancy was 47 years, with a majority of American deaths attributed to influenza, tuberculosis, pneumonia, or other diseases. In 2000, the average life expectancy was nearly 80 years, and for too many people, these long lifespans included cancer, heart failure, Lou Gehrig’s disease, AIDS, or other fatal illnesses, and with them, came debilitating pain and the loss of a once-full and often independent lifestyle. In this compelling and provocative book, noted legal scholar Howard Ball poses the pressing question: is it appropriate, legally and ethically, for a competent individual to have the liberty to decide how and when to die when faced with a terminal illness?

At Liberty to Die charts how, the right of a competent, terminally ill person to die on his or her own terms with the help of a doctor has come deeply embroiled in debates about the relationship between religion, civil liberties, politics, and law in American life. Exploring both the legal rulings and the media frenzies that accompanied the Terry Schiavo case and others like it, Howard Ball contends that despite raging battles in all the states where right to die legislation has been proposed, the opposition to the right to die is intractable in its stance. Combining constitutional analysis, legal history, and current events, Ball surveys the constitutional arguments that have driven the right to die debate.

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