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Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy Hardcover – April 9, 2013


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Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy + A Concise History of the New Deal (Cambridge Essential Histories) + Muller v. Oregon: A Brief History with Documents (Bedford Cultural Editions Series)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465018467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465018468
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #391,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The Supreme Court will soon consider Shelby County (AL) v. Holder, challenging the “pre-clearance” provision of the Voting Rights Act (which Congress extended for 25 years in 2006). For readers who don’t recall the era before the VRA’s hard-fought passage, in 1965, University of Delaware historian May offers an involving narrative of the law’s history and consequences. May’s prologue sketches African American voting rights from the Emancipation Proclamation to the early 1960s and spotlights national leaders (Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, Charles Evers, John Lewis, James Farmer, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.) present when Lyndon Johnson signed the bill into law. In the chapters that follow, however, he stresses the critical work of lesser-known activists, like Amelia and Sam Boynton, Bernard Lafayette, and James Forman, and the powerful impact they and their intransigent opponents, Sheriff Jim Clark and Alabama governor George Wallace, had on public and congressional attitudes. May then traces the bill’s dramatic legislative history, describes the results of its implementation, examines the issues in its four congressional reauthorizations, and outlines challenges it currently faces. An illuminating history of a law that remains all too relevant. --Mary Carroll

From Bookforum

Bending Toward Justice offers up a bracing reminder of what has changed since the civil rights era, and what hasn't. --Dahlia Lithwick

More About the Author

I was born in Los Angeles and reared in a family of composers and writers. My grandfather, M.K. Jerome, was a Warner Brothers' songwriter whose credits included Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and many more classic films. His songs "Some Sunday Morning" (from "San Antonio") and "Sweet Dreams, Sweetheart" (from "Hollywood Canteen") were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Song. My uncle, Stuart Jerome, was a veteran television writer from the 1950s until his death in 1983. He wrote for "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "M Squad" and "The Fugitive." This background had a profound effect on how I write history. I'm a storyteller who approaches great historical events cinematically, reconstructing through a dramatic narrative the lives of Americans forever changed by historical events.
There is no more dramatic and important story in recent American history than the modern Civil Rights Movement,which is the subject of my forthcoming book: Bending Toward Justice:The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy(Basic Books, April 9, 2013. It recounts, in a compelling narrative, the long and bloody struggle of African Americans fighting to win the right to vote. For more about the book please go to http://bendingtowardjusticebook.com .I would also love to hear from my readers. I can be reached at garymay@udel.edu









Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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A well written, informative read that couldn't be more timely.
Pamela S.Kallner
I highly recommend this exellent book to anyone interesting in this topic and this dark time in American history.
Donna Ball
Fascinating, well researched history of the voting rights act and its impact on the US.
Dr. Josef M Breutzmann

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Alan Ginsberg on May 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bending Toward Justice is a superb book. It fully, yet succinctly, recalls the mighty efforts by so many to make the Fifteenth Amendment a reality. The successful Congressional fight in Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act was complex, but here is clearly explained. Author Gary May does a fine job of discussing renewals of the Voting Rights Act, which coincided with increasing political participation and office holding by African Americans. He tells of recent efforts to limit voter registration and voting--what I call "equal opportunity Jim Crow laws". And with the Supreme Court now (late May, 2013) on the verge of possibly overturning key parts of the law, Gary May reminds us that the "history [of disfranchisement] may well repeat itself."
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A. Green on June 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Gary May's authoritative history of the Voting Rights Act is an absorbing page-turner, full of little known stories. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg quoted the May's book in the dissent to the 5-4 ruling, crippling the Voting Rights Act, that was just decided (in June, 2013) by the Supreme Court. If you've watched Eyes on the Prize or Mississippi Burning, you still don't know the real stories of change and hope that came after passage of the Act, like how Jim Clark, the notorious sheriff of Jefferson County, whose forces brutally assaulted black and white activists marching for voting rights, turned around and invited black voters for barbecue and beer once black voters became a power in his district.

The fight for voting rights is becoming, once again, a major theme in US politics. For anyone who wants to understand what's at stake -- and why there's reason for both concern and hope -- or how a previous generation transformed America through the power of the vote -- this is an essential read.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Catherine Filloux on June 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I just finished Gary May's book and it is a true work of art. My heart breaks at the recent developments in the Supreme Court, which May scarily predicts in his book. There are so many amazing characters in this story of struggle, bravery and courage. I had never heard of Julia Wilder and Maggie Bozeman, nor of the the "Subversive Six." Their stories are unbelievable. May's book is pivotal for the fight to honor the Voting Rights Act and has never been more important than right now. It is a must-read, casting light on our crucial history and paving the way for a better future. May's book recounts "the struggle of a lifetime" which can never be forgotten.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pamela S.Kallner on July 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent history of the Voting Rights Act and the ordinary people who toiled to make it possible. A well written, informative read that couldn't be more timely. This should be required reading that would serve to motivate us to protect everyone's right to vote. I highly recommend it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joan Mondul on June 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author's we'll-documented use of conversations and graphic descriptions of events brings the history of voting rights to life. This is a very important book in light of continuing attempts to push back the rights that were so hard to come by.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Donna Ball on April 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the very best books ever written documenting the history of the Voting Rights Act and the struggles of so many courageous people who laid their lives on the line for their right to vote. The savage, unwarranted hatred towards African Americans at that time in the south was not only immoral and disgraceful, it was undefensible. Politicians, law enforcement officers, and community leaders deliberately fanned the flames of hatred, racism, and devisiveness for years, doing all they could to prevent other American citizens from exercising their Constitutional right to vote. Police were given free reign to harass, assault, beat, arrest without cause, and even murder those who marched for the right to vote. No one was ever held accountable for their crimes. Gary May lays out the entire saga against the backdrop of history and with keen insight into the hearts and minds of those who dedicated their lives to secure the right to vote and as well as those who were equally determined to prevent it. I highly recommend this exellent book to anyone interesting in this topic and this dark time in American history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sophie26 on January 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I used this book in my course on Political Sociology, and several students said the same thing: "You knew about this, but you didn't really KNOW about it." This book gives you a vivid picture of the politics of power and protest in America's right to vote.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Williamson on December 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a College student who is a political science major; this book was listed as "recommended reading" for my Constitutional Law: Civil Rights class. I found it be a powerful and inspiring read and believes others will feel the same. While the focus of this book examines the historic struggles that African-Americans faced in their fight to gain suffrage, it is also a timely read considering the recent efforts to suppress the vote. There is no doubt that voting rights are once again under attack, and that attack is coming in various forms. For example, two recent Supreme Court cases have actually challenged the constitutionality of the hard fought Voting Rights Act of 1965. These cases are Shelby County v. Holder (2013) and Northwest Austin v. Holder (2009). The decisions that came out of these two cases have weakened this important Act.
Another recent form of voter suppression has come in the rise of photo-ID requirements being implemented throughout the country. This issue has also made its way up the U.S. Supreme Court and in the case of Crawford v. Marion County (2008), the Court actually ruled such photo-ID requirements to be constitutional "on their face" despite the fact that there has never been one reported incident of in person voter fraud in the state of Indiana (where the case was based). If there is any question as to why such laws continue to be implemented, we need not look further than the partisan politics that makes up our political culture. Clearly, the best example of this was when Pennsylvania House member Mike Turzai said that voter-ID laws were "gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.
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