- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (March 30, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674034694
- ISBN-13: 978-0674034693
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #800,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Lost Promise of Civil Rights
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The Lost Promise of Civil Rights is brilliant. It will revolutionize our understanding of civil rights, what they mean, and where they come from. The Lost Promise of Civil Rights will be widely read and debated, and it will place Goluboff at the front rank of twentieth-century American historians. (Sarah Barringer Gordon, University of Pennsylvania Law School)
Risa Goluboff offers readers a brilliant reconceptualization of civil rights litigation. Her book deals sensitively, and better than any other work, with how open to interpretation and development the idea of civil rights was in the 1940s, and how possibilities were gradually shut down. Combining a legal-realist sense of the openness of legal arguments with a historians sensitivity to the way in which real lawyers make real choices, Goluboff offers a model for legal history. (Mark Tushnet, Harvard Law School)
A marvelous book. Elegantly written, prodigiously researched, and powerfully argued, Lost Promise recreates a pre-Brown universe in which civil rights included labor rights and a commitment to economic equality. The book places Goluboff at the forefront of a new generation of legal historians devising creative and novel ways of understanding the civil rights movement (Michael J. Klarman, author of From Jim Crow to Civil Rights)
The Lost Promise of Civil Rights is original, provocative, and persuasive. By uncovering the forgotten history of the NAACP's labor litigation, Risa Goluboff opens up new ways of thinking about the tangled connections between racial and economic justice. When it came to the working class, the civil rights movement's march through the courts reached a dead end. This book is essential to understanding America's still unfinished struggle for equality. (Thomas J. Sugrue, author of The Origins of the Urban Crisis)
Goluboff's argument is clear and well-organized. Although she draws on a wide range of primary material and weaves together an impressive amount of scholarship from law, history, and political science, she wears her learning lightly and writes in a manner that is accessible to the non-specialist. Goluboff's book also provides an important counterweight to the common scholarly focus on judicial decision making...Goluboff has produced a truly excellent work of legal history that elegantly demonstrates how the basic terms of modern civil rights came to be established. (Keith J. Bybee Law & Politics Book Review)
This is an extraordinary book, the most important reinterpretation of the legal history of the Civil Rights Movement in many years, and one of the best first books this reviewer has ever read...This meticulously researched, beautifully written book constitutes a landmark in legal history. (S. N. Katz Choice 2007-11-01)
In her new and intellectually stimulating book...Risa Goluboff mines the legal pre-history of Brown and unearths a long-forgotten approach―specifically, civil rights claims based on class and economic opportunity. Asking us to put aside the reverence we have for the landmark decision, Goluboff argues something that, on the surface, sounds heretical: that the full-frontal attack on Jim Crow that defined the civil rights era may not have been the best strategy for winning equality and justice...The questions raised by Goluboff are uncomfortable, but pressing: Was the NAACP’s victory in Brown a pyrrhic one? And if so, what does that mean for the last half-century of civil rights achievements? (Mary Frances Berry Democracy Journal 2007-09-01)
A scholar of history as well as law, Goluboff has done a significant service for all those concerned about racism’s continuing viability. Her review of the civil rights history of the 1930s and 1940s un-earths the quasi-slave status of many black workers well into the Twentieth Century. (Derrick Bell Virginia Law Review 2008-06-01)
The Lost Promise of Civil Rights is brilliant. It will revolutionize our understanding of civil rights, what they mean, and where they come from. The Lost Promise of Civil Rights will be widely read and debated, and it will place Goluboff at the front rank of twentieth-century American historians. (Sarah Barringer Gordon, University of Pennsylvania Law School) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In fact, Prof. Goluboff's viewpoint is similar to that of Pres. Obama, as he expressed it in 2001 in a radio interview:
"...the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties."
Whatever the depth of Prof. Goluboff's research, she has used it to support a simplistic idea of the economic system, and to promote an unjustified distortion of the Constitution. There is nothing in the Constitution to support what she longs for, but, because she longs for it, she has found a way to make the Constitution require it. She aims at nothing less than the elimination of the Constitution as a constitution, to make its words infinitely malleable - to "break free from the essential constraints," as Pres. Obama candidly put it. But those "essential constraints" are indeed essential - as a bulwark against tyranny and a guarantee of liberty. Once the constraints are lifted, what is to prevent the abuse of power? Power once given is very difficult to take back, and the stated good intentions of the rulers never stop them ultimately from doing whatever they decide is necessary.
Moreover, what Prof. Goluboff and her numerous, like-minded academic comrades fail to understand is that the cause of racial justice stands on its own. It is not exclusively the property of any political group, and it certainly has no place as a mere prop in a leftist morality play. It is, in fact, the cause of the entire nation, and has been from the start. As Frederick Douglass said, "The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own Constitution."
The professor would do well to consider the chapters in Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" in which the protagonist joins a communist organization. The Brotherhood, as it is called, is only too ready to let him serve as a public face to the group. He soon discovers, however, that, in the eyes of the leadership, he is nothing more than a tool, a means to an end in their quest to gain power for themselves. Such would have been the fate of the members of the civil rights movement had it been subsumed, as Prof. Goluboff wishes had happened, within a movement of economic radicalism.