Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Gonda's New History of Shelley v. Kramer

Out next month from the University of North Carolina Press but available for pre-order now is Unjust Deeds: The Restrictive Covenant Cases and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement, by Jeffrey D. Gonda, an assistant professor of history in the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs at Syracuse University.
In 1945, six African American families from St. Louis, Detroit, and Washington, D.C., began a desperate fight to keep their homes. Each of them had purchased a property that prohibited the occupancy of African Americans and other minority groups through the use of legal instruments called racial restrictive covenants--one of the most pervasive tools of residential segregation in the aftermath of World War II. Over the next three years, local activists and lawyers at the NAACP fought through the nation’s courts to end the enforcement of these discriminatory contracts.

Unjust Deeds explores the origins and complex legacies of their dramatic campaign, culminating in a landmark Supreme Court victory in Shelley v. Kraemer (1948). Restoring this story to its proper place in the history of the black freedom struggle, Jeffrey D. Gonda's groundbreaking study provides a critical vantage point to the simultaneously personal, local, and national dimensions of legal activism in the twentieth century and offers a new understanding of the evolving legal fight against Jim Crow in neighborhoods and courtrooms across America.
Here are two endorsements:
"The time is more than ripe for a new look at restrictive covenant litigation, and Unjust Deeds is invaluable in this regard. With top-rate scholarship and original treatment, this is an important new work. It's definitely among the top books on legal civil rights history from the past decade."
--Susan Carle, American University Washington College of Law

Unjust Deeds analyzes the legal history of Shelley v. Kraemer to show just how instrumental legal campaigns have been to the Black Freedom Struggle. With clear and precise writing, Jeffrey Gonda is making an essential contribution to civil rights scholarship.”
--Robert S. Smith, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee