Synopses & Reviews
Fifty years after the Supreme Court's decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, the debate still rages over the consequences of this momentous ruling. In this authoritative account of constitutional law concerning race, Michael Klarman details, in the richest and most thorough discussion to
date, how and whether Supreme Court decisions do, in fact, matter.
When Thurgood Marshall stood in front of the Warren Court to argue the case that statutes segregating public schools should be invalidated, profound changes had already occurred in American race relations. For the justices, Brown posed a conflict between law and politics. Traditional sources of
constitutional interpretation--text, original intent, precedent, and custom--seemed to indicate that school segregation was permissible. But most of the justices found that practice deeply abhorrent. In creating new precedent in Brown the judges relied on their personal values, values heavily
influenced by larger historical forces.
The consequences of the Brown decision are similarly difficult to disentangle from the social and political context of the time. Brown unquestioningly had a significant impact--it brought race issues to public attention and it mobilized supporters of the ruling. It also, however, energized the
opposition. In a highly provocative interpretation of the decision's connection to the civil rights movement, Klarman argues that Brown was more important for mobilizing southern white opposition to racial change than for encouraging direct-action protest. By mandating court-ordered school
desegregation, Brown created the occasion for violent confrontation and radicalized southern politics, leading to the election of politicians who calculated that violent suppression of civil rights demonstrations would win votes. It was such violence--vividly captured on television--that Klarman
argues ultimately transformed northern opinion on race--a backlash that led to the enactment of landmark civil rights legislation in the mid-1960's.
A monumental investigation of the Supreme Court's rulings on race, From Jim Crow To Civil Rights spells out in compelling detail the political and social context within which the Supreme Court Justices operate and the consequences of their decisions for American race relations.
"Michael J. Klarman's monumental book--undertaking a sweeping exploration of the causes and consequences of all of the Supreme Court's race decisions from Plessy v. Ferguson to Brown vs. Board of Education--is likely to become the definitive study of the Supreme Court and race in the first half of the twentieth century. As a narrative history of the Court's actions on the broad array of constitutional issues relevant to racial equality--from criminal procedure to voting rights to desegregation--the book is an invaluable resource."--Reviews in American History
"Klarman's scholarly text is unique in that it encompasses not only the decision itself, but also the events before and after."--Elaine Cassel, author of The War on Civil Liberties
"This luminous study explores the relationship between the Supreme Court and the quest for racial justice.... a sweeping, erudite, and powerfully argued book that, despite its heft, is unfailingly interesting."--Wilson Quarterly
"Michael Klarman's authoritative account of constitutional law concerning race--from the late 19th century through the 1960s--is brilliant, both as legal interpretation and as social and political history. While the book deals with a wide range of racially charged issues--criminal procedure, peonage, transportation, residential segregation, and voting rights--it focuses with especially keen insights on the Brown v. Board of Education case of 1954. From Jim Crow to Civil Rights is a magisterial accomplishment." --James T. Patterson, Bancroft Prize-winning author of Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 (Oxford, 1996)
"Michael Klarman's exhaustively researched study is essential reading for anyone interested in civil rights, the Supreme Court, and constitutional law. Accessible to ordinary readers, students, and scholars, Klarman's book presents a challenging argument that places the Supreme Court's civil rights decisions in their social and political context, and deflates overstated claims for the importance of the Supreme Court's work while identifying carefully the precise contributions the Court made to race relations policy from 1896 through the 1960s."--Mark Tushnet, author of Taking the Constitution Away from the Courts
"Pulling together a decade of truly magnificent scholarship, this extraordinary book bids fair to be the definitive legal history of perhaps the most important legal issue of the twentieth century. There is no one from whom I have learned more--and whom I enjoy reading more--than Michael Klarman. This is legal history at its best, and on a panoramic canvas."--Akhil Reed Amar, author of The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction
"From Jim Crow to Civil Rights is a bold, carefully crafted, deeply researched, forcefully argued, lucidly written history of law and legal-change strategies in the civil rights movement from the 1880s to the 1960s, and a brilliant case study in the power and limits of law as a motor of social change. Among the hundreds of recent books on the history of civil rights and race relations, Klarman's is one of the most original, provocative, and illuminating, with fresh evidence and fresh insights on practically every page."--Robert W. Gordon, Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and Legal History, Yale University
A monumental investigation of the Supreme Court's rulings on race, From Jim Crow To Civil Rights
spells out in compelling detail the political and social context within which the Supreme Court Justices operate and the consequences of their decisions for American race relations. In a highly provocative interpretation of the decision's connection to the civil rights movement, Klarman argues that Brown
was more important for mobilizing southern white opposition to racial change than for encouraging direct-action protest. Brown
unquestioningly had a significant impact--it brought race issues to public attention and it mobilized supporters of the ruling. It also, however, energized the opposition. In this authoritative account of constitutional law concerning race, Michael Klarman details, in the richest and most thorough discussion to date, how and whether Supreme Court decisions do, in fact, matter.
About the Author
Michael J. Klarman
is the James Monroe Distinguished Professor of Law and Professor of History at the University of Virginia. After graduating from Stanford Law School, Klarman clerked for the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg and then earned his D. Phil. from Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with his spouse, Lisa Landsverk, and their four children.
Table of Contents
1. The Plessy Era
2. The Progressive Era
3. The Interwar Period
4. World War II Era: Context and Cases
5. World War II Era: Consequences
6. School Desegregation
7. Brown and the Civil Rights Movement