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Silent Covenants: Brown V. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform

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Publisher Comments:

When the landmark Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education was handed down in 1954, many civil rights advocates believed that the decision finding public school segregation unconstitutional could become the Holy Grail of racial justice. Fifty years later, despite its legal irrelevance and the racially separate and educationally ineffective state of public schooling for most black children, Brown is still viewed by many as the perfect precedent.

Derrick Bell here shatters this shining image of one of the Court's most celebrated rulings. He notes that, despite the onerous burdens of segregation, many black schools functioned well and racial bigotry had not rendered blacks a damaged race. Brown's recognition of racial injustice, without more, left racial barriers intact. Given what we now know about the pervasive nature of racism, the Court should have determined--for the first time--to rigorously enforce the "equal" component of the "separate but equal" standard.

By striking it down, the Court intended both to improve the Nation's international image during the Cold War and offer blacks recognition that segregation was wrong. Instead, the Brown decision actually enraged and energized its opponents. It stirred confusion and conflict into the always vexing question of race in a society that, despite denials and a frustratingly flexible amnesia, owes much of its growth, development, and success, to the ability of those who dominate the society to use race to both control and exploit most people, black and white.

Racial policy, Bell maintains, is made through silent covenants--unspoken convergences of interest and involuntary sacrifices of rights--that ensure that policies conform to priorities set by policy-makers. Blacks and whites are the fortuitous winners or losers in these unspoken agreements.

The experience with Brown, Bell urges, should teach us that meaningful progress in the quest for racial justice requires more than the assertion of harms. Strategies must recognize and utilize the interest-convergence factors that strongly influence racial policy decisions. In Silent Covenants, Bell condenses more than four decades of thought and action into a powerful and eye-opening book.

Synopsis:

When the landmark Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education was handed down in 1954, many civil rights advocates believed that the decision, which declared public school segregation unconstitutional, would become the Holy Grail of racial justice. Fifty years later, despite its legal irrelevance and the racially separate and educationally ineffective state of public schooling for most black children, Brown is still viewed by many as the perfect precedent.

Here, Derrick Bell shatters the shining image of this celebrated ruling. He notes that, despite the onerous burdens of segregation, many black schools functioned well and racial bigotry had not rendered blacks a damaged race. He maintains that, given what we now know about the pervasive nature of racism, the Court should have determined instead to rigorously enforce the "equal" component of the "separate but equal" standard. Racial policy, Bell maintains, is made through silent covenants--unspoken convergences of interest and involuntary sacrifices of rights--that ensure that policies conform to priorities set by policy-makers. Blacks and whites are the fortuitous winners or losers in these unspoken agreements. The experience with Brown, Bell urges, should teach us that meaningful progress in the quest for racial justice requires more than the assertion of harms. Strategies must recognize and utilize the interest-convergence factors that strongly influence racial policy decisions.

In Silent Covenants, Bell condenses more than four decades of thought and action into a powerful and eye-opening book.

About the Author

Derrick Bell is Visiting Professor of Law at New York University Law School. As an NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer, he handled and supervised hundreds of school desegregation cases during the 1960s. He is the author of several books, including And We Are Not Saved. He lives in New York City.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780195182477
Author:
Bell, Derrick
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Author:
null, Derrick
Subject:
United States - General
Subject:
Law | Civil Rights Law
Subject:
Constitutional
Subject:
Political Freedom & Security - Civil Rights
Subject:
Law | Constitutional Law
Publication Date:
20050731
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Plates; Figs.
Pages:
240
Dimensions:
5.6 x 8.8 x 0.7 in 0.8 lb

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » African American Studies » General
History and Social Science » Law » Constitutional Law
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Politics
History and Social Science » US History » General
Reference » Science Reference » Philosophy of Science
Religion » Comparative Religion » General

Silent Covenants: Brown V. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform New Trade Paper
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Product details 240 pages Oxford University Press - English 9780195182477 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , When the landmark Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education was handed down in 1954, many civil rights advocates believed that the decision, which declared public school segregation unconstitutional, would become the Holy Grail of racial justice. Fifty years later, despite its legal irrelevance and the racially separate and educationally ineffective state of public schooling for most black children, Brown is still viewed by many as the perfect precedent.

Here, Derrick Bell shatters the shining image of this celebrated ruling. He notes that, despite the onerous burdens of segregation, many black schools functioned well and racial bigotry had not rendered blacks a damaged race. He maintains that, given what we now know about the pervasive nature of racism, the Court should have determined instead to rigorously enforce the "equal" component of the "separate but equal" standard. Racial policy, Bell maintains, is made through silent covenants--unspoken convergences of interest and involuntary sacrifices of rights--that ensure that policies conform to priorities set by policy-makers. Blacks and whites are the fortuitous winners or losers in these unspoken agreements. The experience with Brown, Bell urges, should teach us that meaningful progress in the quest for racial justice requires more than the assertion of harms. Strategies must recognize and utilize the interest-convergence factors that strongly influence racial policy decisions.

In Silent Covenants, Bell condenses more than four decades of thought and action into a powerful and eye-opening book.

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