Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tsesis on the History of Civil Rights

We Shall Overcome: A History of Civil Rights and the Law, is the latest book by Alexander Tsesis, Loyola University (Chicago) Law School. Here is the blurb:
Despite America’s commitment to civil rights from the earliest days of nationhood, examples of injustices against minorities stain many pages of U.S. history. The battle for racial, ethnic, and gender fairness remains unfinished. This comprehensive book traces the history of legal efforts to achieve civil rights for all Americans, beginning with the years leading up to the Revolution and continuing to our own times. The historical adventure Alexander Tsesis recounts is filled with fascinating events, with real change and disappointing compromise, and with courageous individuals and organizations committed to ending injustice.

Viewing the evolution of civil rights through the lens of legal history, Tsesis considers laws that have restricted civil rights (such as Jim Crow regulations and prohibitions against intermarriage) and laws that have expanded rights (including antisegregation legislation and other legal advances of the civil rights era). He focuses particular attention on the African American fight for civil rights but also discusses the struggles of women, gays and lesbians, Japanese Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Jews. He concludes by assessing the current state of civil rights in the United States and exploring likely future expansions of civil rights.
Here are some encomiums:
"Tsesis has written an astonishingly clear and compelling history of what most people would define as ''civil rights'' over the past two centuries. It is consistently illuminating." Sanford Levinson, University of Texas School of Law.

"Anyone interested in obtaining a broad overview of Americans' contested history of popular, legislative, and judicial efforts to achieve-and to obstruct-racial and gender equality will benefit from reading We Shall Overcome." Mark Tushnet, Harvard Law School.

"Alexander Tsesis presents a full, thoughtful, and readable history of civil rights in the United States-an outstanding account from the optimistic, liberal perspective that modern advances are the working out of the egalitarian vision of the American founders." Michael Les Benedict, author of The Blessings of Liberty