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Representing the Race

Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer

Kenneth W. Mack
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Representing the Race
    Book Description:

    Representing the Race tells the story of African American lawyers who, during the era of segregation, confronted a tension between their racial and professional identities. Their untold stories pose the unsettling question: What, ultimately, does it mean to “represent” a minority group in the give-and-take of American law and politics?

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06530-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Introduction: The Problem of Race and Representation
    (pp. 1-11)

    Decades after he began practicing law in his native Baltimore, Thurgood Marshall remembered the 1935 case that desegregated the University of Maryland Law School as encapsulating his early career as a lawyer. Marshall recalled that even while he was studying law at the historically black Howard University, ″my first idea was to get even with Maryland for not letting me go to its law school.″ Skipping lightly over his early years in private practice, Marshall remembered the Maryland victory as the first step on a road that would lead directly to his most famous accomplishment, the decision in Brown v....

  4. 1 The Idea of the Representative Negro
    (pp. 12-37)

    In 1925, a young black lawyer named Raymond Pace Alexander stepped gingerly but forcefully across the color line in his hometown of Philadelphia, when he rose to give a speech before a local white civic group. Only two years had elapsed since his graduation from Harvard Law School, but he was already racking up a string of improbable courtroom victories that would soon make him one of the best trial lawyers in the city, regardless of race. That year, he also won his first major civil rights case, which broke the color bar at a Center City movie house. His...

  5. 2 Racial Identity and the Marketplace for Lawyers
    (pp. 38-60)

    In August of 1929, C. Francis Stradford, president of the National Bar Association (NBA), the black lawyers′ professional group, delivered his farewell address at the bar group′s annual meeting. The Chicago lawyer would later come to national prominence as a member of the legal team that took the well-known restrictive covenant case, Hansberry v. Lee, all the way to the Supreme Court. As one might expect, Stradford told his fellow black attorneys that ″[l]awyers need have no fear of championing human rights,″ but he also added that ″[a]ll history attests that such efforts have brought fame, distinction, [and] often wealth...

  6. 3 The Role of the Courtroom in an Era of Segregation
    (pp. 61-82)

    In the spring of 1932, a black youth named William E. (Willie) Brown went on trial for murder in a Philadelphia courtroom so fraught with racial and sexual fear that Brown seemed destined for the electric chair, even without the added burden of a black lawyer for the defense. A month and a half earlier, the police had begun ″one of the greatest man-hunts in the history of the city,″ according to a local paper, after the sexual assault and murder of Dorothy Lutz, a seven-year-old white girl. Near-panic gripped the section of the city where the muder took place,...

  7. 4 A Shifting Racial Identity in a Southern Courtroom
    (pp. 83-110)

    In the fall of 1933, Charles Houston stepped into a Virginia courtroom to defend a black man named George Crawford against a murder charge, and placed himself at the center of an intense debate over the meaning of race in the American South. The story had begun almost two years before, when the murder of Agnes Ilsley, a wealthy socialite, and her maid in Loudoun County, Virginia, made national headlines. Local authorities immediately declared Crawford the prime suspect and indicted him, and many feared that he would be lynched before being brought to justice. A nationwide manhunt finally netted Crawford...

  8. 5 Young Thurgood Marshall Joins the Brotherhood of the Bar
    (pp. 111-130)

    Thurgood Marshall′s life as a lawyer is preserved in American memory as a story that moves quickly from the beginning of his law practice in Baltimore in 1933, to his first major civil rights case two years later that desegregated the University of Maryland′s law school, and then to his move to New York to work for the NAACP on the litigation that would lead to Brown v. Board of Education. His life as a young lawyer struggling to build a reputation in Baltimore evokes little interest, save as an example of his neglect of, and lack of interest in,...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. 6 A Woman in a Fraternity of Lawyers
    (pp. 131-153)

    On July 22, 1939, New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia took a break from his duties at the city′s World′s Fair building to conduct a routine swearing-in of a local judge, and quickly saw his actions splashed across the pages of black newspapers from coast to coast. The story even made it into the white dailies in New York and Los Angeles, and for good reason, because the appointment made a little-known assistant corporation counsel named Jane Bolin into the nation′s first black woman judge. When Bolin assumed her duties on the city′s Domestic Relations Court the following week, the...

  11. 7 Things Fall Apart
    (pp. 154-180)

    For two generations, stretching from John Mercer Langston to Robert H. Terrell to Raymond Pace Alexander, to be a prominent black lawyer was to occupy an uncomfortable space in a nation that was deeply conflicted about what it expected of its minority group representatives. Suddenly, in the middle of the 1930s, the tension that was at the heart of that discomfort broke into the open. In Baltimore, local African Americans vented their displeasure when W. Ashbie Hawkins, perhaps the most experienced civil rights lawyer in the South, tried to speak at an open forum held by the local Elks. At...

  12. 8 The Strange Journey of Loren Miller
    (pp. 181-206)

    In late June of 1935, two of the nation′s best-known black lawyers set out from New York for the long trip to the annual meeting of the NAACP in St. Louis, where they seemed to be on a collision course. Loren Miller arrived in St. Louis as a local celebrity and a hero to the critics of the organization′s traditions. His popularity there was due to his writings in the intellectual press and his nationally syndicated newspaper columns, where for a decade he had subjected his fellow black lawyers to a withering barrage of criticism. His main complaint was the...

  13. 9 The Trials of Pauli Murray
    (pp. 207-233)

    In the fall of 1941, Pauli Murray arrived in Washington, D.C., for her first year of study at Howard Law School, wanting nothing more than to represent her race in its legal battles with segregation. Murray described her civil rights advocacy as motivated by ″an almost pathetic loyalty to [my] racial group,″ and she was eager to demonstrate it. The incident that had set her on the path to law was a simple trip south the previous year to see her relatives, which led to her arrest aboard a segregated bus in Virginia. At the time, Murray was in the...

  14. 10 A Lawyer as the Face of Integration in Postwar America
    (pp. 234-264)

    In December of 1952, and again almost exactly a year later, an integrationist drama played itself out before the justices of the United States Supreme Court. It involved a case that was argued twice in that period, Brown v. Board of Education, and this particular drama focused on the two lawyers who seemed to personify the stakes behind the litigation: Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP′s chief lawyer, and the courtly southerner John W. Davis, perhaps the most prestigious lawyer in the country, who had chosen to lend his ample talents to the defense of school segregation. ″Legal Giants to Vie in...

  15. Conclusion: Race and Representation in a New Century
    (pp. 265-270)

    On an unusually warm night in early November 2008, an immense, wildly enthusiastic crowd gathered in Chicago′s Grant Park to watch the acceptance speech of an African American former civil rights lawyer who had just been elected president of the United States. Some acknowledgment of history seemed to be required, and the president-elect kept the expected references to civil rights history, like his tone, measured to capture the significance of the moment. Barack Obama had first drawn national media notice in 1990, when he was elected as the first black person to head the prestigious Harvard Law Review—the same...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 271-318)
  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 319-322)
  18. Index
    (pp. 323-330)