Brown vs. the Board of Education is usually the starting point for histories of the civil rights movement. Here Stevens, who followed the battle of ""the Bible vs. the Flag"" in Salute! (1973), goes all the way back to Plessy vs. Ferguson, itself a test case that was lost, and shows the Brown decision to have been the culmination of a long range NAACP strategy directed by Thurgood Marshall. The method is uneven, with clumsy vignettes ("" 'What's your name, boy?' the owner of the new house, a white man, asked Harry Briggs. . ."") sprinkled among paragraphs of closely reasoned legal history. But if the result is less approachable than Stiller's Broken Promises (1972), Stevens' account of post-war assaults on the separate but equal doctrine is more concentrated than any readily available at this level.