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Black Trials: Citizenship from the Beginnings of Slavery to the End of Caste Paperback – January 3, 2006
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
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.