To Establish Justice: Citizenship and the Constitution

To Establish Justice: Citizenship and the Constitution

by Patricia McKissack, Arlene Zarembka

AMERICA WAS FOUNDED on the idea of liberty for all. But it has not always achieved that ideal. To Establish Justice is an honest and powerful examination of the Supreme Court’s role in legalizing—or negating—civil rights for various groups. From the struggles of Native Americans at the country’s birth to the African American civil


AMERICA WAS FOUNDED on the idea of liberty for all. But it has not always achieved that ideal. To Establish Justice is an honest and powerful examination of the Supreme Court’s role in legalizing—or negating—civil rights for various groups. From the struggles of Native Americans at the country’s birth to the African American civil rights movement of the 1960s, from the vote for women to the internment of the Japanese during World War II, To Establish Justice shows how the Supreme Court has paved the way for both justice and discrimination, and how this important arm of our government has impacted all of our lives.

Editorial Reviews

Seeking to provide a balanced look at the role of the Supreme Court in the establishment of civil rights for minorities and women, McKissack and Zarembka examine cases where the court was asked "to make decisions about what equal rights are and who is entitled to these guaranteed protections." Their approach focuses on several groups including Native Americans, African Americans, women, immigrants, Americans with disabilities, gays and lesbians, and students. Within this framework, cases that are regarded as upholding discrimination, such as The Cherokee Nation v. The State of Georgia, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Bowers v. Hardwick, are contrasted with those seen as supporting the rights of these same groups, such as United States v. Sioux Nation, Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, and Lawrence v. Texas. The authors point out that judges "are human beings and subject to biases imposed on them by their times." In the epilogue, students are challenged to consider what decisions the Supreme Court should make regarding current concerns such as gay marriage and embryonic research. Focusing on a limited number of cases allows the authors to cover their topic without overwhelming the reader. There is a danger, however, that students who read only the early chapters might decide that court decisions do nothing more than restrict minority rights because the reversals of these decisions are not discussed until the later chapters. Overall the book is quite readable, making it a good choice for junior and senior high school libraries. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P J S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10to 12). 2004, Knopf, 160p.; Index. Illus. Photos. Biblio. Further Reading., and PLB Ages 12 to 18.
—Christine Sanderson
Children's Literature
Throughout the nation's history the United States Supreme Court has wielded great power and authority. If you simply consider some of the issues that Supreme Court rulings have affected you will realize the influence this body of jurists has had. Subjects such as civil rights, slavery, presidential elections, human rights, and discrimination have all come to rest on the desks of Supreme Court justices. In some instances, the members of the court have failed the republic by taking stances that slowed down the evolution of social justice. In many others the members of the court have provided learned guidance to the nation in the form of their briefs and opinions. In this title, the co-authors present some of the more significant decisions rendered by the Supreme Court. Examples of the topics selected are segregation, access to education, equal rights, racial discrimination, and student rights—the common theme being social justice. In fact, the primary premise of this well-documented and capably-written book is that, over time, the United States Supreme Court has acted as an instrument of social justice, one that has established norms for society to emulate. This is a thoughtful book and one that should find a place in school and home libraries as well as classrooms. 2004, Knopf, Ages 12 up.
—Greg M. Romaneck
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-McKissack, a well-respected author, and Zarembka, an attorney, examine issues of justice and equality in American history by focusing on the Supreme Court's role in defining rights of minority groups and citizens. Each chapter is devoted to a particular issue and discusses how the beliefs and actions of the majority were often designed to benefit themselves at the expense of other groups. From the Cherokee's removal to the Midwest to slavery to women's rights and actions against immigrants, laws were passed that limited the opportunities and rights of those outside of mainstream society. Students will learn about what now seem to be terrible decisions, such as Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld policies of separate but equal, as well as those that helped advance human rights, such as the 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka. This book covers a broad spectrum of cases, and the authors do a fine job of providing the history, background, and events surrounding each Supreme Court decision. Boxed text highlights interesting and important details and "stories" behind some of the decisions and the judges who made them. Black-and-white historical drawings and photographs appear throughout.-Jane G. Connor, South Carolina State Library, Columbia Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Working with an attorney, McKissack focuses on significant Supreme Court decisions in this revealing study of the US Constitution's long, evolving role as an instrument for the promotion of civil and human rights. In topical, but also generally chronological, chapters, the authors move from the Cherokee Removal to the growth of "apartheid" after the Civil War, through the creation of "concentration camps" for Japanese-Americans in WWII, to controversies over voting rights, and, more recently, rights of gay, lesbian, and disabled people. Pointing out several instances in which the Court has issued contradictory judgments-sometimes only a few years apart-or worked to narrow individual rights rather than broaden them, the authors present a compelling mix of analyses and quoted passages from judicial opinions to demonstrate that the Constitution and the Court are both flexible entities, sometimes ahead of the curve of change, sometimes behind. Current enough to include the rejection in 2003 of the Texas sodomy law, illustrated with a mix of telling photos, documents, and political cartoons, this will give serious students of this country's legal foundations plenty of food for thought. (documents, reading lists, index) (Nonfiction. 11-15)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.36(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
14 - 16 Years

Meet the Author

Patricia McKissack is the author of The Dark-Thirty, a Newbery Honor Book and winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. She lives in St. Louis, MO.

Arlene Zarembka is an attorney who has written numerous commentaries on civil rights and social- and economic-justice issues. She lives in St. Louis, MO.

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