We Shall Overcome: A History of Civil Rights and the Law

Alexander Tsesis, Author Yale University Press $35 (369p) ISBN 978-0-300-11837-7
Tsesis, a professor of law and author of The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom, offers an ambitious history of how the Supreme Court, presidential orders, and state and federal legislative bodies have affected the ability of minorities to secure their civil rights. As the history unfolds readers will find it hard not feel outrage at the shameful complicity of the Supreme Court, who, following the Civil War, chose to interpret the Constitution and Civil Rights Amendments in a literalist way, allowing the southern states to continue to disenfranchise African-Americans. But this history also includes the progress, however imperfect, made in securing civil rights since WWII, when African-Americans returning from the war and women on the home front would no longer tolerate the endemic pre-war racism and sexism. Tsesis is effective at describing the infrastructure of that progress, foremost the passage of 1960s Civil Rights legislation that ensured voting rights and prohibited discrimination in housing and employment. The author also covers the women's suffrage movement, examines the interment of Japanese Americans during WWII, and considers the growth of legal protections of private consensual sexual conduct. As Tsesis shows, the battle for civil rights in America is one whose history is filled with abuses as well as, in the last fifty years, genuine progress.
Reviewed on: 03/31/2008
Release date: 04/01/2008
Paperback - 369 pages - 978-0-300-15144-2
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