Friday, December 15, 2006

Tidmarsh on Dickerson and the African American Bar before Brown

Jay Tidmarsh, Notre Dame, has a review essay on Robert J. Blakely with Marcus Shepard, Earl B. Dickerson: A Voice for Freedom and Equality (Northwestern University Press 2006). The essay is titled Cradled in the Declaration of Independence. Here's the abstract:
This book review engages recent scholarship on the nature of civil-rights lawyering in the African-American bar in the generation before Brown v. Board of Education. Using the recent biography of Earl Burrus Dickerson, one of the leaders of the African-American bar before World War II, as its vehicle, the review finds support for the emerging thesis that, in the years before Brown, the African-American civil-rights bar was not focused on ending de jure segregation in public institutions, but rather on building up African-American institutions. Contrary to recent scholarship, however, the review suggests that Dickerson personally preferred a more integrationist strategy, and his efforts to build up African-American institutions was less a conscious strategy than a realization of the limitations on his ability to practice law as he wished. Freedom of action, rather than racial equality, was Dickerson's great motivator.