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Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement Hardcover – February 9, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this exhaustively researched account of the civil rights movement, history and law professor Brown-Nagin focuses on the consequential roles of œlesser-known lawyers and organizers, litigators and negotiators, elites and the grassroots. The interests and methods of individuals and local groups, where intraracial and class-based conflicts emerge, differ from and, at times, challenge, national groups like the NAACP and the Legal Defense Fund. Brown-Nagin™s work recounts the Atlanta experience from the early 1950s, as Brown v. Topeka Board of Education moves through the court and community, to the 1970s, as issues of voting rights, housing, education, transportation, and public recreational space are faced locally, where œpragmatic civil rights... privileged politics over litigation, placed a high value on economic security, and rejected the idea that integration (or even desegregation) and equality were one and the same. Brown-Nagin™s meticulous, densely written account explores both little-known lives and less discussed litigations in a manner both accessible and scholarly. Even if there is a whiff of the dissertation, its œfrom the bottom account adds depth and freshness as well as some controversy to a moment in history about which, the author makes clear, there is much more to know. (Feb.)
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"Courage to Dissent is a magnificent achievement, brilliantly analyzing significant tensions within the civil rights movement: between different classes, generations, local and national actors, proponents of direct action and litigation, clients and lawyers. Elegantly written, prodigiously researched, and compellingly argued, Brown-Nagin has made an extraordinary contribution."--Michael J. Klarman, Harvard Law School, and winner of the 2005 Bancroft Prize for From Jim Crow to Civil Rights
"In an excellent work, Professor Brown-Nagin shines a welcome spotlight on unsung 'movement lawyers' like Donald Hollowell, Howard Moore, Jr., and Len Holt--legal warriors and allies of civil rights activists whose courage and skill have gone unrecognized. In the process, she reminds us of the possibility of nobility in the law and the legal profession."--Julian Bond, Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1998-2010
"In her magisterial account of the Civil Rights movement in Atlanta, Tomiko Brown-Nagin shows that it was not just elites working at the national level who had the power to change the course of history. Rather, the grassroots, composed of thousands of ordinary citizens, was crucial. Working together involved lots of conflict; yet, Brown-Nagin opens the door on a truly amazing synergy that ushered in a long overdue revolution. Courage to Dissent is a masterpiece of rigorous scholarship, careful analysis and good old-fashioned story-telling."--Lani Guinier, Professor of Law, Harvard University
"This is an absolutely compelling study of the tangled history of civil rights in Atlanta following World War II (and especially Brown v. Board of Education). No one interested in the actual operation of our fragmented legal system can ignore it, not to mention anyone interested in finding out more about the remarkable cast of characters who contended with one another in trying to shape the future of the South's most importa
Winner of the 2012 Bancroft Prize
Winner of the 2012 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award from the Organization of American Historians
"Courage to Dissent is quite simply the best legal history of the civil rights movement. Although centered on Atlanta, it offers the most comprehensive account of movement mobilization and legal change in the civil rights era in the scholarship today. No other legal scholar has gone as far in telling the story of the movement on such a grand scale... This is a compelling and challenging book. Brown-Nagin's book stands as one of the small number of essential texts in the field of modern American legal history. -- Christopher W. Schmidt, Vanderbilt Law Review
"A magnificent achievement, brilliantly analyzing significant tensions within the civil rights movement: between different classes, generations, local and national actors, proponents of direct action and litigation, clients and lawyers. Elegantly written, prodigiously researched, and compellingly argued...an extraordinary contribution."--Michael J. Klarman, Harvard Law School, and winner of the 2005 Bancroft Prize for From Jim Crow to Civil Rights
"A masterpiece of rigorous scholarship, careful analysis and good old-fashioned story-telling." --Lani Guinier, Professor of Law, Harvard University
"An absolutely compelling study of the tangled history of civil rights in Atlanta following World War II.... No one interested in the actual operation of our fragmented legal system can ignore it, not to mention anyone interested in finding out more about the remarkable cast of characters who contended with one another in trying to shape the future of the South's most important city." --Sanford Levinson, Professor of Law and Government, University of Texas
"An original and convincing approach to the legal history of the civil rights era, a fresh perspective on the Atlanta movement, and a model for integrating the national and local histories of civil rights struggles." --Journal of American History
"Excellent, exhaustively researched... Courage to Dissent is a fascinating and fresh look at the legal history of the civil rights movement and should become a standard work in the field." --Journal of Southern History
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By not-quite-coincidence, I have also been reading two recent books with the same title, Seeing through Race (respectively by W.J.T. Mitchell and Martin A. Berger). Without either author trying to be "cute", they offer alternative ways of seeing "through" race, by transcending it and by using it as a lens through which to view events. Brown-Nagin manages to do both and she is to be (and has been, rightly) commended for her efforts. Very impressive indeed!