No decision by the Supreme Court of the United States has had a more profound effect on the conscience of the American people than its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, on May 17, 1954. Stunning in its unanimity and moral clarity, the ruling transformed race relations in the United States by holding that the legally enforced separation of its black and white children in schools–and, by extension, of the races in all other public settings–was no longer tolerable. The Court’s opinion climaxed a twenty-year struggle by a band of courageous African American plaintiffs and their resolute attorneys who labeled segregation for what it was, a caste system that betrayed U.S. ideals of human equality. Within months of the Justices’ verdict, the civil-rights movement was under way. Simple Justice, rich in personal drama and deft in connecting the complex social issues at stake, is the definitive account of the legal battle that after three centuries at last awarded black Americans equal protection under the law by finding the old “separate but equal” doctrine to be a contradiction. The forced separation of black schoolchildren solely because of their race, the nation’s highest court declared, “generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.” Pulitzer Prize—winner Richard Kluger explores the epochal Brown ruling from its legal and cultural roots, dwelling as well on the lives of those who led the long, bitter, and often disillusioning fight. Here is a sweeping narrative that treats the law not as some lofty abstraction but as an imperfect, and at times vexing, daily presence in a racially divided nation. We meet the men, women, and youngsters who overcame their fears and disadvantages to defy the mean spirit of Jim Crow. They were inspired by a remarkable group of black lawyers who practically invented civil-rights law by patiently assembling, in the courtroom and in the face of constant intimidation, a case so compelling that in the end it could not be denied. Kluger brilliantly searches out and reveals how the Brown decision was shaped–behind closed doors–by the clash of principles and personalities within the Supreme Court over the three years the Justices considered the monumental case. The outcome reflected, above all, the unflinching will of Chief Justice Earl Warren, new to the Court but old in the ways of politics, who unified his robed brethren behind a simple but immensely powerful message to the nation. For this revised edition of Simple Justice, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Court’s ruling, the author has added a final chapter that weighs the far-reaching impact of the case on American society over the past half century and finds that while true racial harmony and equality continue to elude the United States, there is more reason for hopeful celebration than dark despair. This is a vitally important work of American history.
Nonfiction, Current Events, Civil Rights & Liberties,