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On Account of Race

The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravaging of African American Voting Rights

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ON SALE: May 5, 2020 | Hardcover | 6 x 9, 288 pages | ISBN 9781640093928
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Award-winning Constitutional Law historian, Lawrence Goldstone examines case-based evidence to reveal the court’s longstanding support for white supremacy (often under the guise of “states rights”) and how that bias has allowed the court to solidify its position as arguably the most powerful branch of the federal government.

Beginning in 1876, the Supreme Court systematically dismantled both the equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment, at least for African-Americans, and what seemed to be the guarantee of the right to vote in the Fifteenth. And so, of the more than 500,000 African-Americans who had registered to vote across the South, the vast majority of whom were former slaves, by 1906, less than 10 percent were allowed to vote. Many of those were terrified to go the polls, lest they be beaten, murdered, or have their homes burned to the ground. None of this was done in the shadows–those determined to wrest the vote from black Americans could not have been more boastful in either intent or execution. But the Court chose to ignore the obvious and wrote decisions at odds with the constitution, preferring to instead reinforce the racial stereotypes of the day.

On Account Of Race tells the story of an American tragedy, the only occasion in U.S. history in which a group of citizens who had been granted the right to vote then had it stripped away. Even more unjust was that this theft of voting rights was done with full approval, even the sponsorship, of the U.S. Supreme Court.

About Lawrence Goldstone

LAWRENCE GOLDSTONE is the author of five books and numerous articles on constitutional law. His reviews and opinion pieces have appeared in, among other publications, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, The New Republic, and Tablet. His wife is the noted medieval and renaissance historian, Nancy Goldstone. Find out more at lawrencegoldstone.com.

Praise

"In a book both reasonable and readable, Lawrence Goldstone effectively challenges the convenient mythology that racial segregation was a policy reflecting merely the isolated prejudices of the southern American states in the post-Civil War era. His main focus is the U.S. Supreme Court and the peculiar, absurdly twisted logic across a series of critical cases by which the justices undermined the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, systematically legitimating Jim Crow. The lesson is clear: that voting and other basic rights, unless broadly defended, can rest on fragile foundations indeed." --Ronald King, professor of political science at San Diego State University and coauthor of Removal of the Property Qualification for Voting in the United States

"No right is more important than the vote. Yet in this engaging and highly readable book, Lawrence Goldstone shows how the Supreme Court, the supposed guardian of our fundamental rights, has repeatedly failed to protect this right for the most vulnerable Americans. With an eye for detail and irony, Goldstone uncovers the dramatic stories behind the cases in which the Court left racial minorities to fend for themselves in a hostile democracy."

—Adam Winkler, professor at UCLA School of Law and National Book Award finalist for We the Corporations

"Understanding that the right to vote is the guardian of other rights we possess, On Account of Race: The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravaging of African American Voting Rights skillfully and with measured patience, deep insight, and extraordinary attention to primary source evidence charts the course of the United States Supreme Court's abandonment of African American Fifteenth Amendment voting rights and Fourteenth Amendment equality under the law civil rights. In a compelling manner, Goldstone lays bare the glaring and in many instances jarring evidence of the brutal physical suppression of African Americans in the post-Civil War South by white "Redeemers," and the High Court's serendipitous avoidance of the evidence of sustained discrimination against especially African Americans seeking to use their civil and voting rights. Goldstone's meticulous research brings forward the numerous cases brought before the Court by African American litigants seeking redress, even as he demonstrates persuasively that African Americans had no ally in the High Court as they and the relatively small numbers of whites who supported them sought to realize the equality promised them by Reconstruction Era amendments to the nation's Constitution. Simply put, for nearly one hundred years following the Reconstruction Era's goal of biracial democracy in the South, the High Court used its jurisprudence to give sanction to the white supremacy that eviscerated African American civil rights and voting rights. Further, Goldstone notes that African American voter suppression by the proponents of white supremacy is with us again. White supremacy advocates have long sought to weaken or destroy the enforcement preclearance (Sections 2 and 5) provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as those were the oversight mechanisms that ensured the ability of racial and ethnic minorities to vote in parts of the country with a deep history of voter suppression. On June 25, 2013, in a 5-4 decision, Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Chief Justice Roberts cast the decisive vote in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed states and localities to change their election laws without federal Department of Justice preclearance. Since then, under various ruses, rigging election systems and promoting voter suppression have been thwarting the right to vote and once again promoting white supremacy that is chipping away at our democracy." --Marsha J. Tyson Darling, PhD, director of African, Black and Caribbean studies at Adelphi University and editor of Race, Voting, Redistricting and the Constitution

"Lawrence Goldstone's book On Account of Race is a careful and brilliant analysis of the effort of the Southern states to deprive the African American population of the right to vote after Reconstruction ended in 1877. There was no disguise of their purpose and no restriction on the method they used. From the grandfather clause or poll taxes or literacy tests, whatever could be used to block African Americans from voting was openly and emphatically applied. The white population was simply determined to keep the ballot box for themselves. Goldstone shows how the courts refused to interfere in any way with this program. Even such noteworthy judges as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes approved the effort. The book carefully examines the campaign, which lasted almost one hundred years until the Voting Rights Act of 1965."

—Leon Friedman, Joseph Kushner Distinguished Professor of Civil Liberties Law at Hofstra University

"Goldstone offers a clear, cogent reading of the court's machinations, no small accomplishment since the justices generally rested their opinions on convoluted legal reasoning rather than on broad principles. And he's completely convincing when he argues that behind those carefully parsed opinions lay a deep-seated racism strengthened by the justices' embrace of Social Darwinism."—The Washington Post

"Convincingly lays the blame for this tragedy of Jim Crow at the door of the institution that could have made the difference but did not: the United States Supreme Court."—Los Angeles Times

"In this comprehensive and remarkably lucid study of post-Civil War Supreme Court decisions, Goldstone shows how the court's narrow interpretation of the 14th amendment--bestowing 'equal protection under the law' to all Americans, regardless of race--paved the way for future decisions that diminished the status of African-Americans."—Publishers Weekly

"An absorbing account of the Supreme Court's role following the Civil War."—Library Journal

"A furious indictment of the Supreme Court as an accessory to the anti-democratic machinations of Gilded Age elites."—Kirkus Reviews

"One of the saddest episodes in American history has been inadequately explored and poorly understood--until now. Lawrence Goldstone's brilliantly written book, Inherently Unequal, traces the post-Reconstruction Supreme Court's slow strangulation of equal rights for African-Americans. It will be a shock to many that the judicial branch, viewed in the modern context as the premier defender of civil rights, was primarily responsible for the nation's descent into a deep, racist inequality that ruined the lives of millions for a century. As Goldstone shows us, Lincoln's great legacy was cynically dismantled by the officeholders best positioned to protect it."—Larry J. Sabato, Director

"The great puzzle of nineteenth-century American history is why the North waded through blood and gore to free the slaves during the Civil War, only to allow them to be stripped of their civil rights and subject to relentless terror after. Lawrence Goldstone does a brilliant job of showing how the Supreme Court led the way by interpreting the Constitution so as to legalize what was little better than neo-slavery. Inherently Unequal is a valuable corrective for anyone who still believes that judges are above politics or that the Constitution is a clear-cut charter of liberty."—Daniel Lazare, author of The Frozen Republic

"Mr. Goldstone shows the specter of slavery lurking behind so many of the delegates' disputes. He describes the lengths to which these wily debaters would go to make their motives sound nobler than they were and the men themselves freer of the racism of their day than in fact they were."—The Wall Street Journal

"[A] thoughtful new study of the framing of the Constitution and of the compromise over the role of slavery in the composition of the new government."—Philadelphia Inquirer

"Dark Bargain is a long-overdue corrective . . . With sound research and a lively style, Goldstone shows there was no such thing as a single 'original intent.' that he does so in such a robust, entertaining and accessible style is an advantage that even the Constitution's drafters would have appreciated."—The Denver Post

"Mr. Goldstone does not evince any political purpose in this book. But when we see the founders as ordinary men (or worse, ordinary politicians), we can readily see how absurd it is when judges claim to discover, in the brief text of the Constitution, a moral right to abortion or sodomy, an injunction against creches on public property or new rules for professional golf. Today, the Constitution is little read but widely venerated. Dark Bargain makes the document accessible. Both are highly recommended."—The Washington Times

"Dark Bargain puts slavery near the heart of the making of the Constitution, where it belongs. Goldstone's narrative is lively and carefully researched, and we learn more than we knew about James Madison and the other 'founding fathers.'"—Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States

"I thought I'd read the Constitution, but this book turns a good, harsh light on the founding documents, not to mention the Founders, who look in these pages to have been a shrewd and self-loving clique."—Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family

"Slavery has always lurked around the periphery of our constitutional history. In this disturbing yet scintillating work of scholarship, Lawrence Goldstone has restored the peculiar institution to its rightful, horrific place at the center. Fascinating and important."—James Grant, author of John Adams: Party of One

"Captivating and wonderfully presented . . . a fine book about these rival pioneers."—The Wall Street Journal

"A meticulously researched account of the first few hectic, tangled years of aviation and the curious characters who pursued it . . . a worthy companion to Richard Holmes's marvelous history of ballooning, Falling Upwards."—TIME

"A riveting narrative about the pioneering era of aeronautics in America and beyond . . . Goldstone raises questions of enduring importance regarding innovation and the indefinite exertion of control over ideas that go public."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A superbly crafted retelling of a story familiar to aviation buffs, here greatly strengthened by fresh perspectives, rigorous analyses, comprehensible science, and a driving narrative."—Library Journal (starred review)

"The history of the development of an integral part of the modern world and a fascinating portrayal of how a group of men and women achieved a dream that had captivated humanity for centuries."—The Christian Science Monitor

"[A] vivid story of invention, vendettas, derring-do, media hype and patent fights [with] modern resonance."—Financial Times

"Goldstone's Birdmen is The Right Stuff of aviation's pre-World War I era."—USA Today

"The daredevil scientists and engineers who forged the field of aeronautics spring vividly to life in Lawrence Goldstone's history."—Nature

"A powerful story that contrasts soaring hopes with the anchors of ego and courtroom."—Kirkus Reviews

"This sprightly study . . . has relevance for today, when, as Goldstone claims, 'originalist' judges, in the name of adhering strictly to the words of the Constitution, use judicial review, which is not in the Constitution, to inconsistently strike down laws."—Publishers Weekly

"Goldstone builds suspense by beginning with the furious 1787 Constitutional Convention debates over the court's jurisdiction and power. He continues with the political battles that marked the beginning of the Supreme Court and ends with the events leading up to Marbury v. Madison. He lays out a remarkably detailed history and argument in favor of Marshall's decision, which set the precedent for judicial review. This is an excellent book on a complex subject. Recommended for all libraries."—Library Journal

"Presents a vivid account of a pivotal moment in American constitutional history."—Harvard Law Review

"A brilliant book Goldstone dares us to ask: Is judicial supremacy good for the nation?"—Larry J. Sabato, author of A More Perfect Constitution and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia

"An excellent and detailed analysis of Marbury v. Madison and John Marshall's unquestioned judicial activism."—John L. Kane, United States Senior District Judge

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