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Black Trials: Citizenship from the Beginnings of Slavery to the End of Caste (Vintage) [Kindle Edition]

Mark S. Weiner
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

Print List Price: $18.95
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

   From a brilliant young legal scholar comes this sweeping history of American ideas of belonging and citizenship, told through the stories of fourteen legal cases that helped to shape our nation.
   Spanning three centuries, Black Trials details the legal challenges and struggles that helped define the ever-shifting identity of blacks in America. From the well-known cases of Plessy v. Ferguson and the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings to the more obscure trial of Joseph Hanno, an eighteenth-century free black man accused of murdering his wife and bringing smallpox to Boston, Weiner recounts the essential dramas of American identity—illuminating where our conception of minority rights has come from and where it might go. Significant and enthralling, these are the cases that forced the courts and the country to reconsider what it means to be black in America, and Mark Weiner demonstrates their lasting importance for our society.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This book is the best of its kind—a serious, deeply felt reflection on the weight of history on contemporary affairs. Weiner, a historian/attorney at Rutgers School of Law, examines how court proceedings involving black people—and whites trying to assist them—have served as windows onto race relations and the power of whites over blacks in the U.S. from its earliest days. Using specific cases (such as those of the Amistad, the Scottsboro Boys, Black Panther Huey Newton and Mumia Abu-Jamal), he charts changes in Americans' civic inclusiveness—i.e., "what it means to be an American," and whether it includes blacks—and the long struggle for civic inclusiveness in the U.S., a struggle not yet over. The law, in Weiner's view, affects, as much as it reflects, the larger culture; while the law adjusts the rules that govern individuals' behavior, it's also a litmus test of the power of jurisprudence to improve the lot of the least powerful. His worries about the ability of a liberal definition of civic participation to sustain itself without an anchor in religious faith are worth considering. Weiner's history reveals, as he acknowledges, decent progress in American race and ethnic relations over the decades. But, as he also recognizes, there's always more to be done.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Weiner examines questions of race and citizenship within the context of the U.S. legal system as demonstrated in famous legal cases (Brown v. Board of Education, Dred Scott, plessy v. ferguson) and lesser-known legal struggles (the case against Joseph Hanno, charged with murdering his wife and bringing the pox to Boston). Weiner also provides historical perspective, from the early fears of slave revolt, including the Great Negro Plot in 1741 in New York to John Brown's revolt in 1859, to more contemporary racially charged legal issues, including the 1931 trial of the Scottsboro boys and the 1991 Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas confirmation testimony. But Weiner is at his best when focusing on the more obscure cases, using biographical research to flesh out detail not usually granted to black historical figures. Weiner's underlying subject is the evolution of civil rights integrated with our founding principles and our nation's attempts to reconcile the differences between ideals and historical reality. This historical and social critique should enjoy broad appeal from historical scholars to general reader. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1004 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XUADL8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,345,663 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Intricate Web of Storytelling is Immaculate November 10, 2004
What a fascinating book which at its heart attempts to answer the question "what does it mean to belong?" Not only is that a question of actual acceptance by one group, but one of perceived acceptance by another. The book is extremely well structured. The author, in examining, what it means, specifically, to be American, takes us seemlessly through the history of the Afro-American in the US through poignant discriptives of key black trials. Each story is told with meticulous, at times excruciating, detail down to the color of Indian cloth for which young African boys were traded. Every sight, smell, and stutter of speech noted to present the reader with an immaculate image of the moment.

I am sure that Prof. Weiner's conclusion that the Afro-American now "belongs" (i.e. is not an outcaste in American society) is debatable by both liberals and conservatives, but the history and the final arguments are well stated and worth the time to read.
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