Brown v. Board of Education: Caste, Culture, and the Constitution

Brown v. Board of Education: Caste, Culture, and the Constitution

by Robert J. Cottrol, Raymond T. Diamond, Leland B. Ware
     
 

Before 1954, both law and custom mandated strict racial segregation throughout much of the nation. That began to change with Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark decision that overturned the pernicious "separate but equal" doctrine. In declaring that legally mandated school segregation was unconstitutional, the Supreme Court played a critical role in helping

Overview

Before 1954, both law and custom mandated strict racial segregation throughout much of the nation. That began to change with Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark decision that overturned the pernicious "separate but equal" doctrine. In declaring that legally mandated school segregation was unconstitutional, the Supreme Court played a critical role in helping to dismantle America's own version of apartheid, Jim Crow.

This new study of Brown—the title for a group of cases drawn from Kansas, Virginia, South Carolina, Delaware, and the District of Columbia—offers an insightful and original overview designed expressly for students and general readers. It is concise, up-to-date, highly readable, and very teachable.

The authors, all recognized authorities on legal history and civil rights law, do an admirable job of examining the fight for legal equality in its broad cultural and historical context. They convincingly show that Brown cannot be understood apart from the history of caste and exclusion in American society. That history antedated the very founding of the country and was supported by the nation's highest institutions, including the Supreme Court whose decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) supported the notion of "separate but equal."

Their book traces the lengthy court litigations, highlighting the pivotal role of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and including incisive portraits of key players, including co-plaintiff Oliver Brown, newly appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren, NAACP lawyer and future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, and Justice Felix Frankfurter, who recognized the crucial importance of a unanimous court decision and helped produce it. The authors simply but powerfully narrate the obstacles these individuals faced and the opportunities they grasped and clearly show that there was much more at stake than educational rights. Brown not only changed the national equation of race and caste—it also changed our view of the Court's role in American life.

The dramatic story of the road to and from Brown, despite the retrenchments of recent years, needs to be heard anew. As we prepare to commemorate the decision's fiftieth anniversary in May 2004, this book invites readers to walk that road again and appreciate the lasting importance of what is indisputably a landmark case.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Cottrol, Raymond T. Diamond, and Leland B. Ware (law, George Washington Univ., Tulane Univ., and the Univ. of Delaware, respectively) take us through a history of civil rights in education, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education case in May 2004. They begin by exploring the concept of caste in post-Civil War days, when castelike restrictions were routinely placed on former slaves. They then explore the relationship between law and culture, showing how legal opinions influenced society even as the laws of the day drew on the bigotry that was the norm. But when African Americans began bringing lawsuits against educational institutions, the Constitution came to their aid. Though the first skirmishes were fought in the arena of higher education, the focus eventually shifted to elementary and secondary education. The authors take us through these early legal battles, leading us up to the group of cases from Kansas, Virginia, South Carolina, Delaware, and the District of Columbia known collectively as Brown v. Board of Education. But the story doesn't stop there. An epilog denotes the current status of segregation in the American educational system, showing how far we've slipped since this decision. Although filled with legalese, this book is fairly accessible and makes for a good selection for most public and academic libraries.-Terry Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780700612888
Publisher:
University Press of Kansas
Publication date:
09/16/2003
Series:
Landmark Law Cases and American Society Series
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.20(d)

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