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Childhood in Americaby Paul Harris
Synopses & Reviews
In 1971, Paul Harris pioneered the modern version of the black rage defense when he successfully defended a young black man charged with armed bank robbery. Dubbed one of the most novel criminal defenses in American history by Vanity Fair, the black rage defense is enormously controversial, frequently dismissed as irresponsible, nothing less than a harbinger of anarchy. Consider the firestorm of protest that resulted when the defense for Colin Ferguson, the gunman who murdered numerous passengers on a New York commuter train, claimed it was considering a black rage defense.
In this thought-provoking book, Harris traces the origins of the black rage defense back through American history, recreating numerous dramatic trials along the way. For example, he recounts in vivid detail how Clarence Darrow, defense attorney in the famous Scopes Monkey trial, first introduced the notion of an environmental hardship defense in 1925 while defending a black family who shot into a drunken white mob that had encircled their home.
Emphasizing that the black rage defense must be enlisted responsibly and selectively, Harris skillfully distinguishes between applying an environmental defense and simply blaming society, in the abstract, for individual crimes. If Ferguson had invoked such a defense, in Harris's words, it would have sent a superficial, wrong-headed, blame-everything-on-racism message. Careful not to succumb to easy generalizations, Harris also addresses the possibilities of a white rage defense and the more recent phenomenon of cultural defenses. He illustrates how a person's environment can, and does, affect his or her life and actions, how even the most rational person can become criminally deranged, when bludgeoned into hopelessness by exploitation, racism, and relentless poverty.
Free Teacher's Guide available for Childhood in America!
Childhood in America is a unique compendium of sources on American childhood that has many options for classroom adoptions and can be tailored to individual course needs. Because the subject of childhood is both relatively new on campuses and now widely recognized as vital to a range of specialties, the editors have prepared a Teacher's Guide to assist you in making selections appropriate for your courses.
Collecting a vast array of selections from past and present- from colonial ministers to Drs. Benjamin Spock and T. Berry Brazelton, from the poems of Anne Bradstreet to the writings of today's young people- Childhood in America brings to light the central issues surrounding American children. Eleven sections on childbirth through adolescence explore a cornucopia of issues, and each section has been carefully selected and introduced by the editors.
About the Author
Paula S. Fass is Professor of History at the University of California at Berkeley and author of The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the 1920s, Outside In: Minorities and the Transformation of American Education, and Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America.
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