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On Account of Race: The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravaging of African American Voting Rights

On Account of Race: The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravaging of African American Voting Rights

by Lawrence Goldstone


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Winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award

An award–winning constitutional law historian examines case–based evidence of the court's longstanding racial bias (often under the guise of "states rights") to reveal how that prejudice has allowed the court to solidify its position as arguably the most powerful branch of the federal government.

One promise of democracy is the right of every citizen to vote. And yet, from our founding, strong political forces were determined to limit that right. The Supreme Court, Alexander Hamilton wrote, would protect the weak against this very sort of tyranny. Still, as On Account of Race forcefully demonstrates, through the better part of American history the Court has instead been a protector of white rule. And complex threats against the right to vote persist even today.

Beginning in 1876, the Supreme Court systematically dismantled both the equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment and what seemed to be the right to vote in the Fifteenth. And so a half million African Americans across the South who had risked their lives and property to be allowed to cast ballots were stricken from voting rolls by white supremacists. This vacuum allowed for the rise of Jim Crow. None of this was done in the shadows—those determined to wrest the vote from black Americans could not have been more boastful in either intent or execution.

On Account of Race tells the story of an American tragedy, the only occasion in United States history in which a group of citizens who had been granted the right to vote then had it stripped away. It is a warning that the right to vote is fragile and must be carefully guarded and actively preserved lest American democracy perish.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781640093928
Publisher: Catapult
Publication date: 05/05/2020
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 490,257
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Lawrence Goldstone is the author of five books and numerous articles on constitutional law. His reviews and opinion pieces have appeared in, among other publications, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, The New Republic, and Tablet. His wife is the noted medieval and renaissance historian, Nancy Goldstone. Find out more at

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Prologue-Overthrow 12

1 Who Votes? 20

2 Two Amendments… 28

3 Power in Black and White 43

The Klan

4 … and a Third 52

Equal Rights Conies to the Ballot Box

5 A Fragile Illusion 58

6 Any Way You Slice It 65

The Slaughter-House Cases

7 Equality by Law 74

The Civil Rights Act of 1875

8 The Uncertainty of Language 79

United States v. Reese

9 Rutherfraud Ascends, but Not Equal Rights 90

10 A Slight Case of Murder 95

The Strange Journey of Strauder v. West Virginia

11 Tightening the Knot 109

Virginia v. Rives

12 Strangling the Constitution 121

The Civil Rights Cases

13 The Curious Incident of the Chinese Laundry and Equal Protection 131

14 Mississippi Leads the South 146

15 The First Test 159

Mills v. Green

16 Peer Review 174

Williams v. Mississippi

17 Refining Redemption 191

18 Forging an Attack 209

19 The Window Slams Shut 218

Giles v. Harris

Epilogue-Stolen Justice 234

Acknowledgments 239

Notes 241

Bibliography 261

Index 273

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