Lift Every Voice: Turning a Civil Rights Setback into a New Vision of Social Justice

Lift Every Voice: Turning a Civil Rights Setback into a New Vision of Social Justice

by Lani Guinier
     
 

In 1993, shortly after his inauguration, new President Bill Clinton nominated his old friend and classmate Lani Guinier to the prestigious and crucial post of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. In the face of concerted opposition - what one friend of Guinier's called "a low-tech lynching" - Clinton backed down, not only withdrawing her nomination, but having… See more details below

Overview

In 1993, shortly after his inauguration, new President Bill Clinton nominated his old friend and classmate Lani Guinier to the prestigious and crucial post of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. In the face of concerted opposition - what one friend of Guinier's called "a low-tech lynching" - Clinton backed down, not only withdrawing her nomination, but having refused throughout to give her an opportunity to speak out in her own defense (and his). The result was a civil rights setback of monumental proportions. Now, in this book, at once a memoir and insider's account of what really happened behind the closed doors of the Oval Office, the Justice Department, and the U.S. Senate, and an insightful look at the past, present, and future of civil rights in America, Lani Guinier at last breaks her silence. Unsparing of her own mistakes and shrewdly perceptive about the overt and hidden agendas of those who opposed her, Professor Guinier shows how the president promptly abandoned his ambitious agenda for civil rights at the first hint of criticism from the media and Congress - and how the civil rights movement suffered a major setback as a result. Above all, Guinier goes on to describe how her experience at the hands of the press, the White House, and her congressional enemies has given her both a new voice and a renewed faith in the ongoing struggle for civil rights. Using her own nomination as a symbolic point of reference, she shows just how weak and divided the cause of civil rights has become, as its leaders have all too often been silenced by the very people they should be challenging.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Guinier on why she lost the nomination for assistant attorney general.
Hanna Rosin
She succeeds in bringing the modern struggle to life, describing the fight against majority efforts to dilute the black vote, mostly in poor sections of the South....The newest incarnation of Lani Guinier does not limit itself to voting....She is hinting here at a more radical, activist vision of grand Marches on Washington. -- New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Legal scholar Guinier describes the experience that made her famous and the lessons she learned from it: President Clinton's withdrawal in 1993 of her nomination as Assistant Attorney General for civil rights, under withering attack from conservatives. Guinier, recently appointed Harvard Law School's first tenured black female professor, insists in this half-autobiography, half-treatise that Clinton actually did her a favor, despite her anger over the way she was treated by hostile critics, a press too lazy to verify attacks levied against her, and a president who had once been her friend. "From a momentary crisis," she writes, "I retrieved the opportunity to become who I am": someone who now strives to emulate Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela by "pushing forward from behind." Guinier describes how she has relearned lessons from early in her career as a crusading lawyer for the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP, that lasting social change comes from the bottom up, from an energized citizenry, rather than from top-down fiats from legislators or administration bureaucrats. Guinier repeatedly hits readers over the head with lectures on participatory democracy and building from the grassroots. Also, her narrative would make more sense if she had placed her most important chapter at the beginning rather than near the end. In it, she defends her belief in proportional representation, which so outraged right-wing pundits in 1993. Her arguments for systems in which, basically, representation is based on the percentage of votes received, rather than winner-take-all, seem perfectly sensible. Certainly, just as her outnumbered defenders argued in 1993, there is nothing in hertheories, which are modeled after numerous current and historical examples, to justify the vilification she received. Despite her tendency to pedantry, Guinier is an original and stimulating thinker whose ideas, in contrast to her last wide exposure to the public eye, may now get the broader and fairer airing they deserve.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684811451
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
03/03/1998
Pages:
338
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.55(h) x 1.06(d)

What People are saying about this

Anthony Lewis
Considering the frustration she must have endured, . . .[Guinier] is admirably calm as she tells the story. . .There is more sadness in it than anger. Most telling is what she says about her friend Bill Clinton -- The New York Review of Books

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