Shifting Wind, The: The Supreme Court and Civil Rights from Reconstruction to Brown

SUNY Press
Free sample

The Supreme Court played a decisive, and not always positive role in molding the relationship between race and rights during the ninety years between the end of the Civil War and Brown. Brown marked a turning point in the meaning of race in American society. Its contribution to the erosion of the moral legitimacy of segregation helped impel the civil rights movement toward major legislative success, culminating with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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About the author

John R. Howard is Distinguished Service Professor in the Division of Social Sciences at the State University of New York at Purchase, and is a practicing attorney. He is the author of The Cutting Edge: Social Movements and Social Change in America; coauthor of Life Styles in the Black Ghetto; and coeditor of Urban Black Politics.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
393
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ISBN
9781438407159
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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At the forefront of a new era in American history, Briggs v. Elliott was one of the first five school segregation lawsuits argued consecutively before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1952. The resulting collective 1954 landmark decision, known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, struck down legalized segregation in American public schools. The genesis of Briggs was in 1947, when the black community of Clarendon County, South Carolina, took action against the abysmally poor educational services provided for their children. In a move that would define him as an early—although unsung—champion for civil rights justice, Joseph A. De Laine, a pastor and school principal, led his neighbors to challenge South Carolina's "separate but equal" practice of racial segregation in public schools. Their lawsuit, Briggs, provided the impetus that led to Brown. In this engrossing memoir, Ophelia De Laine Gona, the daughter of Reverend De Laine, becomes the first to cite and credit adequately the forces responsible for filing Briggs. Based on De Laine's writings and papers, witness testimonies, and the author's personal knowledge, Gona's account fills a gap in civil rights history by providing a poignant insider's view of the events and personalities—including NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall and federal district judge J. Waties Waring—central to this trailblazing case. Though De Laine and the brave parents who filed Briggs v. Elliott initially lost their lawsuit in district court, the case grew in significance when the plaintiffs appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Three years after the appeal, the Briggs case was one of the five lawsuits that shared the historic Brown decision. However, the ruling did not prevent De Laine and his family from suffering vicious reprisals from vindictive white citizens. In 1955, after he was shot at and his church was burned to the ground, De Laine prudently fled South Carolina in order to save his life. He died in exile in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1974. Fifty years after the Supreme Court's decision, De Laine was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his role in reshaping the American civil rights landscape. Those interested in justice, human rights, and leadership, as well as in the civil rights movement and South Carolina social history, will be fascinated by this inspiring tale of how one man's unassailable moral character, raw courage, and steely fortitude inspired a group of humble people to become instruments of change and set in motion a corrective force that revolutionized the laws and social practices of a nation.
 Tells the story of a tragic Supreme Court decision involving child abuse and what might be done to rectify it.
In DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services, a bitterly divided Supreme Court rejected a claim brought on behalf of five-year old Joshua DeShaney, left permanently disabled after sustained abuse, despite regular home visits by social workers charged with monitoring his welfare. In its decision the court asserted that the state has no duty to shield citizens from private violence, even though involved in their lives and knowing of their distress. Poor Joshua tracks the story from its origins in small town Wisconsin to the Supreme Court and chronicles the tragic consequences of the majority decision. John R. Howard shows how that decision became the rock on which later child abuse cases foundered, and how it echoes today in every newspaper story about society’s failure to protect children. The continuing vitality of DeShaney, he argues, derives from a persistent sense that the decision is legally incorrect and profoundly at odds with the underlying values of the Constitution. The case is also about different visions of our social order and the relationship between “law” and “justice.” Howard summarizes the substantial law review literature critical of the DeShaneydecision and erects the scaffolding for a counterargument bringing law into a closer alignment with justice.

“Poor Joshua turns a Supreme Court case into a gripping narrative, placing it within the context of the dilemma over how society and the law should respond to child abuse. It is also a call to arms: an indictment of the status quo and an advocacy piece that urges a profound reconsideration of the outcome of the case and the duty of the state toward those whom it leaves in positions of danger. It’s an important story, well told.” — Linda Greenhouse, author of The U.S. Supreme Court: A Very Short Introduction
C. Vann Woodward, who died in 1999 at the age of 91, was America's most eminent Southern historian, the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Mary Chestnut's Civil War and a Bancroft Prize for The Origins of the New South. Now, to honor his long and truly distinguished career, Oxford is pleased to publish this special commemorative edition of Woodward's most influential work, The Strange Career of Jim Crow. The Strange Career of Jim Crow is one of the great works of Southern history. Indeed, the book actually helped shape that history. Published in 1955, a year after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ordered schools desegregated, Strange Career was cited so often to counter arguments for segregation that Martin Luther King, Jr. called it "the historical Bible of the civil rights movement." The book offers a clear and illuminating analysis of the history of Jim Crow laws, presenting evidence that segregation in the South dated only to the 1890s. Woodward convincingly shows that, even under slavery, the two races had not been divided as they were under the Jim Crow laws of the 1890s. In fact, during Reconstruction, there was considerable economic and political mixing of the races. The segregating of the races was a relative newcomer to the region. Hailed as one of the top 100 nonfiction works of the twentieth century, The Strange Career of Jim Crow has sold almost a million copies and remains, in the words of David Herbert Donald, "a landmark in the history of American race relations."
From the 1930s to the early 1960s civil rights law was made primarily through constitutional litigation. Before Rosa Parks could ignite a Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Supreme Court had to strike down the Alabama law which made segregated bus service required by law; before Martin Luther King could march on Selma to register voters, the Supreme Court had to find unconstitutional the Southern Democratic Party's exclusion of African-Americans; and before the March on Washington and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Supreme Court had to strike down the laws allowing for the segregation of public graduate schools, colleges, high schools, and grade schools. Making Civil Rights Law provides a chronological narrative history of the legal struggle, led by Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, that preceded the political battles for civil rights. Drawing on interviews with Thurgood Marshall and other NAACP lawyers, as well as new information about the private deliberations of the Supreme Court, Tushnet tells the dramatic story of how the NAACP Legal Defense Fund led the Court to use the Constitution as an instrument of liberty and justice for all African-Americans. He also offers new insights into how the justices argued among themselves about the historic changes they were to make in American society. Making Civil Rights Law provides an overall picture of the forces involved in civil rights litigation, bringing clarity to the legal reasoning that animated this "Constitutional revolution", and showing how the slow development of doctrine and precedent reflected the overall legal strategy of Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP.
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