Justice Deferred: Race and the Supreme Court

Belknap. May 2021. 432p. ISBN 9780674975644. $35. LAW
Burton (history, Univ. of Illinois; The Age of Lincoln) and civil rights lawyer Derfner present an extensive, thoughtful narrative charting the history and impact of race jurisprudence in the United States Supreme Court. The authors offer a clear perspective on the Supreme Court’s varied roles: though the general public associates the court with advancing equal rights (as in Brown v. Board of Education), the court has also perpetuated racial injustice (as in Jones v. Van Zandt and Ableman v. Booth, which upheld rulings against defendants seeking to help people escape slavery). Burton and Derfner exhaustively cover court cases and decisions from 1619 to the present (on issues ranging from Indigenous land rights to voting), explore how phrasing and word choice can uphold laws, and contextualize the relationship between these court decisions and ongoing racial discrimination in the U.S. The book is smartly structured, both chronologically and topically, and the authors make complex information accessible.
VERDICT With extensive notes, this superb volume is well positioned to be revisited as a reference. It will benefit scholars and students, as well as readers interested in civil rights and legal history.
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