From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality (Book Review) - Stanford Law School

From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality (Book Review)

By Stanford Law School

  • Release Date: 2005-03-01
  • Genre: Law


FROM JIM CROW TO CIVIL RIGHTS: THE SUPREME COURT AND THE STRUGGLE FOR RACIAL EQUALITY. By Michael J. Klarman. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Scholars writing about black-white relations in the United States typically offer either optimistic or pessimistic narratives. The former emphasize racial progress--the gradual realization of American egalitarian and democratic ideals, which is variously attributed to the heroic efforts of idealistic reformers, mass protest movements, foreign policy considerations, or the impersonal forces of modernization. American history, and especially African American history, is understood as a progression from slavery to freedom, from pervasive racial segregation and discrimination to landmark civil rights reforms and affirmative action policies. The pessimists in contrast call attention to the persistence of racial conflict, segregation, discrimination, and inequality. Although military force, civil rights legislation, and federal court decisions overcame slavery and the southern Jim Crow system, the pessimists point out that white Americans still exercise political dominance on most issues of racial salience, still generally have better educational and economic opportunities than do black Americans, and still often resist concerted efforts to reduce longstanding racial inequalities. Michael Klarman's From Jim Crow to Civil Rights is on the pessimistic side of the spectrum, offering a strong critique of the tendency of some civil rights advocates to rely too much on civil rights litigation while ignoring broader social issues.