SIMPLE JUSTICE

ABOUT THE BOOK

Published 1976 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.,
Finalist, National Book Award in History

 

 

The 1954 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Brown v. Board of Education brought centuries of legal segregation in this country to an end. It was and remains, beyond question, one of the truly significant events in American history, “probably the most important American government act of any kind since the Emancipation Proclamation,” in the view of constitutional scholar Louis H. Pollak. The Brown decision climaxed the long battle for black equality in education, making hard law out of vague principles and opening the way for the broad civil rights upheavals of the 1960s.

Simple Justice is the story of that battle. Richard Kluger traces the entire background of the epochal ruling, from its remote legal and cultural roots to the complex personalities of those who brought about its realization. The result is a landmark work of popular history, graceful and fascinatingly detailed, the panoramic account of a struggle for human dignity in process since the birth of the nation.

Here is the human drama, told in all its dimensions, of the many plaintiffs, men, women, and children, variously scared or defiant but always determined, who made the hard decision to proceed – bucking the white power structure in Topeka, Kansas; braving night riders in rural South Carolina; rallying fellow high school students in strictly segregated Prince Edward County, Virginia – and at a dozen times and places showing their refusal to accept defeat.

Here, too, is the extraordinary tale, told for the first time, of the black legal establishment, forced literally to invent itself before it could join the fight, then patiently assembling, in courtroom after courtroom, a body of law that would serve to free its people from thralldom to unjust laws. Heroes abound, some obscure, like Charles Houston (who built Howard Law School into a crack academy for black lawyers) and the Reverend J.A. DeLaine (the minister-teacher who, despite bitter opposition, organized and led the first crucial fight for educational equality in the Jim Crow South), others like Thurgood Marshall justly famous – all individuals whose passionate devotion proved intense enough to match their mission.

Reading Simple Justice, we see how black Americans’ groundswell urge for fair treatment collides with the intransigence of white supremacists in a grinding legal campaign that inevitably found its way to the halls and chambers of the Supreme Court for a final showdown. Brilliantly, Kluger searches out and analyzes what went on there during the months of hearings and deliberations, often behind closed doors, laying bare the doubts, disagreements, and often deeply held convictions of the nine Justices. He shows above all how Chief Justice Earl Warren, new to the Court but old in the ways of politics, achieved the impossible – a unanimous decision to reverse the 58-year-old false doctrine of “separate but equal” education for blacks. Impeccably researched and elegantly written, this may be the most revealing report ever published of America’s highest court at work.

Based on extensive interviews and both published and unpublished documentary sources, Simple Justice has the lineaments of an epic. It will stand as the classic study of a turning point in our history, a wonderfully readable exploration of a great American theme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SIMPLE JUSTICE

THE CRITICAL RESPONSE

 

* WASHINGTON POST (Robert C. Maynard): “…an outstanding piece of legal and social history…this extraordinary book is an immense undertaking, encompassing virtually the whole legal history of blacks in the United States. That it is an ambitious undertaking is an understatement. That it succeeds is also an understatement…. And it is a great tribute to the skill of Richard Kluger that he does that landmark [decision] simple justice.”

* THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY (Richard Todd): “So readable and authoritative it seems unlikely it will be supplanted…. A remarkable act of scholarship…a book about values…its readers should be prepared to be moved.”

* PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER (Larry Swindell): “One of the most important books published in our American times. Kluger has done it all – the formal research, interviews with the surviving winners and losers in the chain of struggles…. A major accomplishment both as scholarship and journalism, and it also serves the name of literature…. A masterful study, it has a grace to match its scope.”

 

“A remarkable book, moving and intellectually rich, mixing scholarship and humanity as it explores the modern Supreme Court’s most important decision.”

– ANTHONY LEWIS, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist and author of Gideon’s Trumpet

 

* THE NATION (Maurice deG. Ford): “It will be a sensation because Kluger has been able to reconstruct the conferences of the Supreme Court Justices, [a procedure] so secret that rarely has the seal been broken…. If a man should achieve nothing more with his life than to write a book like Simple Justice, his life will have been grandly lived. This is a monumental accomplishment.”

* HARVARD LAW REVIEW (Edward N. Beiser): “[This is] an extraordinary research effort and a major contribution to our understanding of the Supreme Court…. Kluger has written three distinct books within one jacket. The first is an account of race relations in America. The second is a detailed study of the complex process – the litigation strategy – by which the five consolidated cases that we now know as Brown arose and worked their way up to the Supreme Court. The third is a meticulously researched account of the process within the Supreme Court by which the Brown decision was reached.”

* LOS ANGELES TIMES (Robert Kirsch): “A gripping story…epic history.”

* ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH (Myron A. Marty): “A masterful storyteller, Kluger finds heroes all along the way…. He is fair, even charitable, with those who resisted…he never loses sight of the historical dimensions…. Embellished with captivating anecdotes… engrossing character vignettes.”

 

“Simple Justice is probably the best thing I’ve read on the whole black grievance. It is history, law, sociology, and human emotion blended into one great story. For the first time the whole melancholy century of black history, from Emancipation until now, has been set down with accuracy and skill. I’m awed by Kluger’s achievement.”

– HUGH SIDEY, Time, Washington bureau chief

* PLAYBOY: “Superb history and compelling reading.”

* THE NEW YORK TIMES (in op-ed page column by Bob Herbert): “A brilliant and powerful book.”

* KANSAS CITY STAR (Thorpe Menn): “An exciting story of an American happening and as important as the Revolution itself…. Superb narrative history.”

* CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR (Joseph G. Harrison): “…a monumental study…. Amiable in purpose, careful in execution, tireless in research, exhaustive in detail, and strengthened and inspired by compassion for the oppressed, it is hard to believe that Richard Kluger has not written one of this year’s Pulitzer Prize winners…. To read this book is to understand America with all its mighty faults but with all its still more magnificent greatness and promise.”

* SATURDAY REVIEW (Fred Hechinger): “Kluger’s epic… [is an] admirable…remarkable book…. A compelling sense of purpose gives power and substance to this important book.”

* CHICAGO SUN-TIMES (Elmer Gertz): “This huge, fascinating book… classic in its clarity and dimension… should become part of our nation’s scriptures.”

* NEWSDAY (Geoffrey Wolff): “Simple Justice is a noble study, written in the grand manner.”

* SACRAMENTO BEE (Ronald Blubaugh): “A sense of narrative that carries the story like a novel… a brilliant work.”

* PROVIDENCE JOURNAL (Maurice Dolbier): “A masterful job.”

 

“Simple Justice is simply spectacular: learned, vivid and clear.”

MICHAEL MELTSNER, author of Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment

 

* CHICAGO TRIBUNE (Richard E. Friedman): “The greatest service of this excellent book is that it provides a basis for informed discussion and thought on a subject that is invariably wrapped in passion and emotion.”

* NATIONAL OBSERVER (Mark R. Arnold): “Moving and masterful history, a powerful story beautifully recreated.”

* SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER: “…a huge, fascinating book by Richard Kluger, a writer of brilliance, insight and compassion.”

* VIRGINIA LAW REVIEW (William H. Harbaugh): “Rarely has a long, serious book on a law suit received as much… acclaim as Richard Kluger’s panoramic history of Brown v. Board of Education…. This praise is warranted…. Simple Justice is one of the most important books of our times and probably of all American times.”

 

 

New York Law Journal
Literary Critic Picks
Simple Justice
Best American Book Ever
on the Law

• • •

In an editorial page essay titled “The Ten Best Law Books” appearing in the March 15, 1993, issue of the New York Law Journal, attorney/literary critic Daniel J. Kornstein concluded his piece:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SIMPLE JUSTICE

EXCERPTS

 

 

Foreword
 

 

Thurgood Marshall
learns his trade

 

 

The spurs of Texas
are upon you

 

The Doll Man
 

 

 

 

Mr. Brown’s day
in court

 

Facing the
Supremes

 

 

The big day

 

Fifty years later