Equity & Diversity Commentary

Books on the Brown Decision

May 19, 2004 4 min read

In addition to the books mentioned in essays contributed for this special section, other recently published resources on the Brown decision and related themes include the following:

Brown at 50
Marking a Milestone: Commentaries

  • Books on the Brown Decision

All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education, by Charles J. Ogletree Jr. (W.W. Norton & Co., $25.95). The head of the American Bar Association’s Brown v. Board of Education Commission, a Harvard University law professor, concludes that “the important goal of full equality in education following slavery and Jim Crow segregation was compromised from the beginning,” and that “50 years after Brown there is little left to celebrate.”

After Brown: The Rise and Retreat of School Desegregation, by Charles T. Clotfelter (Princeton University Press, $24.95). A Duke University professor of public policy, economics, and law writes of the “contrary forces” in play that lessened the impact of, and ultimately reversed, the post-Brown movement toward desegregation. Documentary evidence includes information on private school enrollment, the “white flight” phenomenon, district-attendance-zone changes, and more.

Black, Brown, and White: The Landmark School Desegregation Case in Retrospect, edited by Claire Cushman & Melvin I. Urofsky (CQ Press, $45) . With a Preface by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, this volume of articles assembled by the Supreme Court Historical Society charts both the legal arguments and the social and political legacy of the decision. The book’s wealth of information and advice on methods and resources for learning make it especially suited for high school students and educators exploring the topic.

Brown v. Board of Education: Caste, Culture, and the Constitution, by Robert J. Cottrol, Raymond T. Diamond, & Leland B. Ware (University Press of Kansas, $15.95, paperback). A history and analysis of the decision by three legal scholars that locates its significance in the fact that “Brown touched on the core contradiction in American life.” Brown was about caste, they write, a system of separation that, in large part, was “brought about by the attempt to reconcile slavery with the liberal precepts of the American nation.”

Educational Freedom in Urban America: Brown v. Board After Half a Century, edited by David Salisbury & Casey Lartigue Jr. (Cato Institute, $24.95). A collection of essays from community leaders, education activists, and scholars explores the continuing inequality in public education in the nation’s inner cities and proposes parental choice as the mechanism for breaking its grip.

From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality, by Michael J. Klarman (Oxford University Press, $35) . A well-known constitutional-law scholar’s exhaustively researched study of the impact of litigation on race relations in America. Highly praised by historians and legal scholars, the book is also considered a highly accessible compilation for the ordinary reader.

Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality, by Richard Kluger (Knopf, $45). One of the classic studies of Brown v. Board of Education, reissued for the 50th anniversary with a new chapter and introduction recounting the ruling’s impact since the book’s original publication in 1976. The author writes: “Exorcism is rarely a pretty spectacle. It is frequently marked by violent spasms and protracted trauma, and so it has been over the five decades since Brown launched the nation’s effort to rid itself of the consuming demons of racism.” This has been called by a Pulitzer Prize- winning historian “one of the finest history books ever written.”

My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience, by Juan Williams (Sterling Publishing Co. Inc., $19.95). With a foreword by David Halberstam and an afterword by Marian Wright Edelman, this collection tells the inspiring stories of men and women whose experiences placed them- sometimes unwittingly-on the front lines of the struggle for civil rights. The book is part of the AARP’s “Voices of Civil Rights” project.

Remember: The Journey to School Integration, by Toni Morrison (Houghton Mifflin, $18). The Nobel Prize-winning author addresses mainly children in this narrated collection of archival photographs dating to the period of segregated schools. The novelist imagines children of the time and conveys their reactions to historical events and personal situations through dialogue and narration.

The Unfinished Agenda of Brown v. Board of Education, by the editors of Black Issues in Higher Education(Wiley, $24.95). Published by a bimonthly journal on minority academic issues, this volume contains contributions from Asian and Latino figures in lawsuits similar to Brown, as well as essays and interviews by luminaries such as Julian Bond, Charles Ogletree, and Derrick Bell. An interweaving commentary by the NPR talk-show host Tavis Smiley and others connects material on topics ranging from the lawyers who litigated Brown and the language of the decision, to how the commitment to equality Brown symbolizes can be renewed for coming generations.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 19, 2004 edition of Education Week as Books on the Brown Decision


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