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A Matter Of Law: A Memoir Of Struggle In The Cause Of Equal Rights Hardcover – May 2, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this dry but intriguing memoir, Carter, a U.S. District judge in New York, offers an insider's account of the legal battle to end segregation in the United States. Having served as Thurgood Marshall's chief legal assistant and then as General Counsel to the NAACP, Carter was pivotal in winning the Brown v. Board of Education case that outlawed racial segregation in public schools. Carter begins by describing his impoverished New Jersey childhood, the deaths of three of his siblings and the educational discrimination that "toughened him for later battles with racism." Although he also recounts his college years and his tumultuous experience in the army, Carter devotes most of the book to his legal career, detailing the events and strategies that led to the Brown vs. Board triumph. Perhaps most fascinating is Carter's take on the power struggles within the NAACP. Carter had a tepid relationship with Marshall, and he admits to feeling "hurt and angry" at being overlooked as his successor. Indeed, some may wonder if he still harbors a little of that anger; his portrayal of Marshall as a high-stakes gambler and an ambitious man who discarded people when their "usefulness to him was over" is less than flattering. Still, those who can take these details with a grain of salt and overlook Carter's plodding prose will find this a unique perspective on how the Civil Rights victory was won.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Carter was a pivotal figure in the struggle for racial equality and one of the legal architects in the NAACP attack on racial segregation that culminated in the Brown decision. His memoir is as understated as he was effective as a legal tactician in the struggle. As deputy counsel to Thurgood Marshall, he provided the legal substantive content and context that Marshall evoked as the nation's premier civil rights advocate. Carter offers insight into the workings of the NAACP and the subsequent break off with its Legal Defense Fund, which lead to Jack Greenberg's ascension as Marshall was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Carter exposes the undercutting of his initial effort to secure a position on the U.S. Federal Court by none other than U.S. congressman Adam Clayton Powell. Carter later came to Powell's rescue--at no charge--when the House attempted to unseat him. Carter, for more than 30 years serving on the federal bench in New York, is an example of social commitment and activism at its highest. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; First Edition edition (May 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565848306
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565848306
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #529,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leeper on September 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When reading about the history of the NAACP's and the Legal Defense Fund's struggle for human rights, we tend to hear more about Thurgood Marshall and not enough about Robert Carter, who was a integral part of the fight. After many years, Robert Carter has shared his perspective with us.

Tales from Carter's childhood and schooling are simply stated. Given the discrimination and hardship with which he grew up, these tales are more aptly labeled, "simply understated. His accomplishments through adversity are clearly laudable, but we don't get all the detail we would hope for. He does discuss a falling out between Marshall and him, and he also discusses grabs for power as Thurgood left. However, we don't get this level of detail on the cases.

Regardless of the level of detail, this is a very informative read. I would recommend that anyone wanting to know more about our continuing struggle with civil rights should read this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Donovan G. Rinker on October 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Judge Robert Carter gives a blow by blow account of the legal fronts of the civil rights struggle: the personalities involved, the infighting among them, the battles won, lost, and nearly neglected. Brown v. Board is well-told elsewhere, while other struggles receive overdue attention (e.g., the battle for the NAACP to preserve its member lists from scrutiny by officials striving to break the organization's back).

Carter perceives himself as the uncharismatic technocrat of the struggle, an unheralded leader in a fight who was unceremoniously jettisoned from its core despite his impressive contributions.

Accordingly, his account is that of a dutiful documentarian, rather than a labor of love, and the writing suffers for a dearth of passion.
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