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The Pig Farmer's Daughter and Other Tales of American Justice: Episodes of Racism and Sexism in the Courts from 1865 to the Present Paperback – April 11, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375707468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375707469
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,852,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Aiming to show just how unblind justice has been and continues to be in America, Berry (Black Resistance/White Law, etc.) examines civil and criminal court cases "that deal with the intersection of race, class, and gender." A former assistant secretary of education (under Jimmy Carter) and appointed in 1993 by Congress to chair the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Berry is no legal radical. Still, she issues an unapologetic call to arms: "only to the extent we mount and sustain reform movements can we change the law." Turning to the past, she shows how 19th-century law drew on "scientific racism... to reinforce racism and gender bias." In rape cases, writes Berry, "race, gender, and class affected courts' understanding of the status of rape victims and the accused and affected their decisions." Berry points to America's legacy of race lynching, arguing that black men were lynched not because they had raped white women but because they "challenged white male privilege." The title refers to a case in which a German immigrant farmer's daughter unsuccessfully accused of rape a mulatto supported by well-to-do white patronsAa case Berry archly compares to the outcome of the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas debacle (which, she writes, "was not about two African Americans [but] really about the white male privilege to devalue her, and to elevate him"). With clarity and leavening flashes of wit, Berry revealingly reviews bias in the court and the rationalizations employed to uphold it.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In eight original essays, the head of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission offers engaging and elucidating legal analysis, social commentary, and historical perspective on the law controlling sexual choices. Asking what stories and whose stories have counted in U.S. courts on such issues as abortion, homosexuality, incest, prostitution, and rape, Berry incisively probes the law as a social construct of personal beliefs and formal rules. The controlling narratives, argues this historian and lawyer, have been ones of class and racial paternalism. Legal reform has shifted narrative themes and values but not yet removed the traditional basis of heterosexual white male freedom that has subjugated all else. This is essential reading for any serious student of race, gender roles and relations, or U.S. history, law, or society. Highly recommended.AThomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Mary Frances Berry is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, and the author of nine books. The recipient of thirty-three honorary degrees, she has been chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, is a regular contributor to Politico, and has appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, Anderson Cooper 360, The Daily Show, Tavis Smiley, and PBS's NewsHour.

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Carey on June 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
While there are probably very few people who think justice is truly blind to race, gender, class and sexual orientation, this look at the courts from Restoration until today is still shocking. The systemic protection of 'white male privilege' has made it impossible for just about anyone and everyone to get a fair trial. And throughout this book Berry argues convincingly, logically, simply and clearly why this has been the case.
Berry's thesis is that the court - through judges' decisions and verdicts - uphold the prevailing 'stories' of the day, explaining why some black men - under the protection of white male privilege - were punished less harshly than others. Or why black men were so quickly and easily convicted of raping white women, or why it was considered pretty much impossible to rape a black woman or a poor white one. And on and on and on... According to Berry, judges would twist the understanding of statutes and laws to conform to and support the stories. When, after WWII, stories began to change, the different attitudes and ideas were reflected in court decisions, and Brown vs. the Board of Education, Roe vs. Wade, and other cases were possible.
Berry certainly creates a very compelling case, showing the effects of these 'stories,' the efforts to change them and the ensuing results. Although I do believe that other elements - even, as the Supreme Court illustrated so clearly during the election fiasco, personal ideology - play a role, I still think that Berry is describing a very powerful phenonmenon. And Berry's evidence of a strong bias in the courts is something every American should know about. In fact, I think this should be mandatory reading for pretty much everybody.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Charles D. Hayes on June 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The "Pig Farmer's Daughter" is a stalwart exposition describing the fault line of bigotry, and bias that runs through the historical bedrock of the American judicial system. Berry offers a seamless narrative, written eloquently and without malice. Her book is an irrefutable unveiling of the ignorance that so often poses as the truth of popular culture. What is so ironic is that the players she exposes were and are supposed to be the very people who are without bias. Everyone and anyone who has a desire to understand racism and sexism in this country needs to read this book. No lawyer or judge serious about racial justice should enter a courtroom without having read it.
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Format: Paperback
Generally I agree with the author's perspective about stories and how personal and societal views affect and distort the delivery of justice in US courts. However, I was profoundly disturbed by the fact that MOST of the cases she used to illustrate this with regard to the prosecution of so-called crimes involving homosexuality actually involved adult men abusing children. Of course she was not alone in her confusion of child sexual molestation and homosexuality - the prosecutors and judges were also confused, as in most of these cases, the charges appear to have been homosexuality or sodomy and not the more appropriate charge of sexual abuse of a child. Berry does a huge disservice to the gay rights movement by failing to acknowledge this distinction.
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