The Lost Promise of Civil Rights

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9780674024656: The Lost Promise of Civil Rights
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Listen to a short interview with Risa Goluboff
Host: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane

In this groundbreaking book, Risa L. Goluboff offers a provocative new account of the history of American civil rights law. The Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education has long dominated that history. Since 1954, generations of judges, lawyers, and ordinary people have viewed civil rights as a project of breaking down formal legal barriers to integration, especially in the context of public education. Goluboff recovers a world before Brown, a world in which civil rights was legally, conceptually, and constitutionally up for grabs. Then, the petitions of black agricultural workers in the American South and industrial workers across the nation called for a civil rights law that would redress economic as well as legal inequalities. Lawyers in the new Civil Rights Section of the Department of Justice and in the NAACP took the workers' cases and viewed them as crucial to attacking Jim Crow. By the time NAACP lawyers set out on the path to Brown, however, they had eliminated workers' economic concerns from their litigation agenda. When the lawyers succeeded in Brown, they simultaneously marginalized the host of other harms--economic inequality chief among them--that afflicted the majority of African Americans during the mid-twentieth century. By uncovering the lost challenges workers and their lawyers launched against Jim Crow in the 1940s, Goluboff shows how Brown only partially fulfilled the promise of civil rights.

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About the Author:

Risa L. Goluboff is Professor of Law, Professor of History, and Caddell & Chapman Research Professor at the University of Virginia.

Review:

Goluboff's argument is clear and well-organized. Although she draws on a wide range of primary material and weaves together an impressive amount of scholarship from law, history, and political science, she wears her learning lightly and writes in a manner that is accessible to the non-specialist. Goluboff's book also provides an important counterweight to the common scholarly focus on judicial decision making...Goluboff has produced a truly excellent work of legal history that elegantly demonstrates how the basic terms of modern civil rights came to be established. (Keith J. Bybee Law & Politics Book Review)

This is an extraordinary book, the most important reinterpretation of the legal history of the Civil Rights Movement in many years, and one of the best first books this reviewer has ever read...This meticulously researched, beautifully written book constitutes a landmark in legal history. (S. N. Katz Choice 2007-11-01)

In her new and intellectually stimulating book...Risa Goluboff mines the legal pre-history of Brown and unearths a long-forgotten approach—specifically, civil rights claims based on class and economic opportunity. Asking us to put aside the reverence we have for the landmark decision, Goluboff argues something that, on the surface, sounds heretical: that the full-frontal attack on Jim Crow that defined the civil rights era may not have been the best strategy for winning equality and justice...The questions raised by Goluboff are uncomfortable, but pressing: Was the NAACP’s victory in Brown a pyrrhic one? And if so, what does that mean for the last half-century of civil rights achievements? (Mary Frances Berry Democracy Journal 2007-09-01)

A scholar of history as well as law, Goluboff has done a significant service for all those concerned about racism’s continuing viability. Her review of the civil rights history of the 1930s and 1940s un-earths the quasi-slave status of many black workers well into the Twentieth Century. (Derrick Bell Virginia Law Review 2008-06-01)

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780674034693: The Lost Promise of Civil Rights

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ISBN 10:  0674034694 ISBN 13:  9780674034693
Publisher: Harvard University Press, 2010
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