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This is a history of Supreme Court decisions on the constitutional rights of the Negro from 1789 to 1965. The book is cast in the form of a historical narrative and the author suitably supplies the historical framework within which the court worked out its decisions. The beginning of the book is a chronicle of the court's decisions on the rights of slaves, on the foreign slave trade, interstate commerce in slaves, fugitive slave laws, the Dred Scott case and the court's narrow construction of the Civil War amendments. The Supreme Court retained its restrictive interpretation of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments up until the early 1930's. Here the author chooses the first Scottsboro case in 1932, as the court's departure from the stultifying framework it had itself previously created. Miller explains the various outstanding cases from the 1930's to the present in which the court struck down discriminatory practices in labor (especially on the railroads), education, transportation, housing, voting procedures, in legal attacks on the NAACP and the sit-ins. Loren Miller gives the Supreme Court a great deal of credit for its stronger emphasis on Civil Rights in the past thirty years but the overall picture that emerges from this history is that the court has reflected the spirit of the times. The Petitioners is documented by chapter and proves much less dull than one would at first suspect. This is due more to the author's organization than to his style.

Publisher: Pantheon