On Account of Race: The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravaging of African American Voting Rights
On Account of Race will be published next May. With voter suppression certain to be a major issue in 2020 elections, I cannot think of a more important topic to have written about. The book examines case-based evidence to reveal the court's longstanding support for white supremacy (often under the guise of "states rights") and how that bias has allowed the court to solidify its position as arguably the most powerful branch of the federal government.
Beginning in 1876, the Court systematically dismantled both the equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment, at least for African-Americans, and what seemed to be the guarantee of the right to vote in the Fifteenth. And so, of the more than 500,000 African-Americans who had registered to vote across the South, the vast majority former slaves, by 1906, less than ten percent remained. Many of those were terrified to go the polls, lest they be beaten, murdered, or have their homes burned to the ground. None of this was done in the shadows―those determined to wrest the vote from black Americans could not have been more boastful in either intent or execution. But the Court chose to ignore the obvious and wrote decisions at odds with the Constitution, preferring to instead reinforce the racial stereotypes of the day.
On Account Of Race tells the story of an American tragedy, the only occasion in United States history in which a group of citizens who had been granted the right to vote then had it stripped away. Even more unjust was that this theft of voting rights was done with full approval, even the sponsorship, of the United States Supreme Court.
I've gotten some super reaction so far:
“A thought-provoking book about some of the tragic twists and turns of race in the Supreme Court post-Civil War. This is a significant conversation.” —Jay Winik, best-selling author of April 1865 and 1944.
"No right is more important than the vote. Yet in this engaging and highly readable book Lawrence Goldstone shows how the Supreme Court, the supposed guardian of our fundamental rights, has repeatedly failed to protect this right for the most vulnerable Americans. With an eye for detail and irony, Goldstone uncovers the dramatic stories behind the cases in which the Court left racial minorities to fend for themselves in a hostile democracy." —Adam Winkler, Professor, UCLA School of Law; National Book Award Finalist for We, the Corporations.
"Lawrence Goldstone's book, On Account of Race, is a careful and brilliant analysis of the effort of the Southern states to deprive the African-American population of the right to vote after Reconstruction ended in 1877. There was no disguise of their purpose and no restriction on the method they used. From the grandfather clause or poll taxes or literacy tests, whatever could be used to block African-Americans from voting was openly and emphatically applied. The white population was simply determined to keep the ballot box for themselves. Goldstone shows how the courts refused to interfere in any way with this program. Even such noteworthy judges Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes approved the effort. The book carefully examines the campaign which lasted almost 100 years until the Voting Rights Act of 1965." —Leon Friedman, Joseph Kushner Distinguished Professor of Civil Liberties Law, Hofstra University.
"In a book both reasonable and readable, Lawrence Goldstone effectively challenges the convenient mythology that racial segregation was a policy reflecting merely the isolated prejudices of the southern American states in the post-Civil War era. His main focus is the U.S. Supreme Court and the peculiar, absurdly twisted logic across a series of critical cases by which the justices undermined the 14th and 15th Amendments, systematically legitimating Jim Crow. The lesson is clear, that voting and other basic rights, unless broadly defended, can rest on fragile foundations indeed." —Ronald King, Professor of Political Science, San Diego State University. Co-author, Removal of the Property Qualification for Voting in the United States.
"In understanding that the right to vote is the guardian of other rights we possess, On Account of Race: The Supreme Court, White Supremacy, and the Ravaging of African-American Voting Rights skillfully and with measured patience, deep insight, and extraordinary attention to primary source evidence charts the course of the United States Supreme Court’s abandonment of African American 15th Amendment voting rights and 14th Amendment equality under the law." —Marsha J. Tyson Darling, Director of African, Black and Caribbean Studies, Adelphi University. Editor, Race, Voting, Redistricting and the Constitution.
And there is also a version for high school students... and parents who want a quicker introduction to the Supreme Court’s role in voter discrimination.
Stolen Justice: The Struggle for African American Voting Rights
Kirkus wrote: "Goldstone resurrects decades-old court cases, bringing new life to the past by clearly connecting yesterday to today and invoking current questions about which Americans have participatory access to democracy. Short chapters, ample photographs and illustrations, judicious use of illustrative quotations, and straightforward prose make this an engaging read.A critical work."
Publishers Weekly added:" In clear, vivid language, this timely volume recounts the layered history of African-American voting rights, from the 1787 Constitutional Convention to Georgia’s 2018 block against voter registration for 53,000 residents... In addition to revealing looks at the roles played by notable individuals such as Booker T. Washington and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in the struggle against disenfranchisement, Goldstone further enriches the narrative with nuanced portraits of many lesser-known figures... A strong, illuminating addition to the study of American history."
And a starred School Library Journal: "Goldstone has provided new and compelling insight into the societal impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions related to voting rights. A must-buy for all high school collections."
© Lawrence Goldstone.