SIMPLE JUSTICE: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality by Richard Kluger

SIMPLE JUSTICE: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality

Email this review


A voluminous study of the background to the 1954 Supreme Court decision to abandon legalized racial separation in the public schools. Kluger offers sharp summaries of the rise of Jim Crow and the Booker T. Washington-W. E. B. Du Bols clash. The subsequent court battles are profusely elaborated with biographies of the lawyers and families involved: Kluger interviewed 135 individuals involved in major civil rights cases. The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education victory took 20 years. After a disastrous series of early-1930s Supreme Court reaffirmations of the Plessy doctrine of separate but equal, the implementation of equality was enjoined by three 193941 decisions which made no challenge to segregation itself. Jumping off from another series of partial victories along this line in the early 1950s, the NAACP prepared the ultimate school challenge; Kluger sees the victory as the accomplishment of Howard University law school head Charles Huston, his brightest graduate Thurgood Marshall, and a small group of NAACP lawyers. In addition to his absorbing biographical sketches, Kluger draws the social context chiefly with reference to the improving status of black Americans. He concedes, somewhat grudgingly, that in the 1930s, it was not the NAACP but the left and the industrial union movement that led civil rights battles both in and outside the courts. When it comes to the 1950s, Kluger provides evidence--especially in the case of Delaware--that influential pro-integration corporations were concerned with upgrading labor force skills. But Kluger does not explicitly identify this trend as a factor in creating the Brown climate. The book's main accomplishment--apart from its extensive documentation--is to recall the moral and intellectual elan of the civil rights movement, which has been depreciated in the 1970s, and to bring forward, without sentimentality, many of the organizers and ""plaintiffs"" as well as lawyers who sustained the fight.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Knopf