Cover image for Stolen justice : the struggle for African-American voting rights
Stolen justice : the struggle for African-American voting rights
Physical Description:
xxx, 257 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm

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A thrilling and incisive examination of the post-Reconstruction era struggle for and suppression of African American voting rights in the United States. Following the Civil War, the Reconstruction era raised a new question to those in power in the US: Should African Americans, so many of them former slaves, be granted the right to vote?In a bitter partisan fight over the legislature and Constitution, the answer eventually became yes, though only after two constitutional amendments, two Reconstruction Acts, two Civil Rights Acts, three Enforcement Acts, the impeachment of a president, and an army of occupation. Yet, even that was not enough to ensure that African American voices would be heard, or their lives protected. White supremacists loudly and intentionally prevented black Americans from voting -- and they were willing to kill to do so.In this vivid portrait of the systematic suppression of the African American vote for young adults, critically acclaimed author Lawrence Goldstone traces the injustices of the post-Reconstruction era through the eyes of incredible individuals, both heroic and barbaric, and examines the legal cases that made the Supreme Court a partner of white supremacists in the rise of Jim Crow. Though this is a story of America's past, Goldstone brilliantly draws direct links to today's creeping threats to suffrage in this important and, alas, timely book.

Author Notes

Lawrence Goldstone has written more than a dozen books for adults, including three on Constitutional Law. Unpunished Murder was his first book on that subject for young readers. He lives in Sagaponack, New York, with his wife, medieval and Renaissance historian Nancy Goldstone.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

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, the majority of whom were African-American. Goldstone (Unpunished Murder) traces a range of events--including the founding of the Supreme Court, the genesis of the Ku Klux Klan, and research by scientists Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer--as he details the many ways that black people have effectively been kept from exercising the suffrage that they were legally granted in 1870. Throughout, he also focuses often on how conflicts between federal and state law have continued to affect those rights. 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. In reference to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Goldstone writes, "after more than a century, the promise of Reconstruction had begun to be kept," but, leaping forward to contemporary Supreme Court rulings, he finds that promise potentially as "elusive" as ever. A strong, illuminating addition to the study of American history. Ages 12--up. Agent: Charlie Olsen, Inkwell Management. (Jan.)

Horn Book Review

The unwillingness of delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention to decide on two issues was disastrous for the nations future. Leaving voting rights to the statesespecially to the slave states with white supremacist governmentsmeant that the ideal of equality laid out in the U.S. Constitution would be frustrated, with much of the American population denied basic rights. The delegates also could not agree on whether or not there should be a federal court system beyond the Supreme Court, with Southern states, especially, distrusting a national court system, fearing it would threaten their way of life. Goldstone (Unpunished Murder, rev. 9/18) analyzes the promises of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments and the attempt during Reconstruction to expand civil rights under the law. He then demonstrates, through several Supreme Court cases, how in decision after decision, the Court chose to allow white supremacists to re-create a social order at odds with legislation that Congress had passed, the president had signed, and the states had ratified. The book, with long stretches of text unrelieved by sidebars or visuals, may challenge readers, but steadfast ones will be rewarded by Goldstones treatment of cases not often covered in similar surveys. The narrative concludes with a brief look at the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery (led by figures such as John Lewis), and the monumental Voting Rights Act of 1965, later undercut by Alabama v. Holder in 2013, demonstrating that the issue of voting rights is still far from settled. Back matter includes a bibliography, glossary, and thorough source notes (index not seen). Dean Schneider January/February 2020 p.104(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

The author of Unpunished Murder (2019), Goldstone offers another account of racism's legacy in American history. Here he details the ways in which white Americans have denied African Americans' voting rights, locally through intimidation, murder, and fraud, and more broadly through legislative action, court decisions, and difficulties enforcing the law. And lest readers regard the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act with undue satisfaction, the book's epilogue closes with a brief account of how the Supreme Court's 2013 decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder has opened the floodgates to laws restricting voting once again. A striking jacket image will draw readers to the book, which is illustrated with well-chosen archival photos, prints, posters, political cartoons, and documents. Profiling significant individuals as well as presenting a broad array of facts, legal arguments, and court cases, the text will be challenging for some, but it's a useful tool for young people researching the history of African American voting rights from the Constitutional Convention of 1787 to the present. A richly informative resource on an all-too-relevant topic.--Carolyn Phelan Copyright 2020 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up--Goldstone's thorough work captures the inconsistency of the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings involving the voting rights of African Americans, particularly in the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction eras. For the most part, U.S. Supreme Court appointees during the post-Reconstruction period mirrored the general shift of attitude by white America toward reconciliation with the South, even if it meant ignoring or repealing the rights granted to African Americans with the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Goldstone builds a convincing case that the Supreme Court played a pivotal role in the reversal of African American voting rights after Reconstruction. Furthermore, he offers evidence that efforts to restrict voting rights apply to the present-day Supreme Court, citing the 2013 decision to remove the requirement mandating special permission to change election laws at the state and local levels in designated areas within the country. Immediately after the 2013 decision, many states began to institute voting restrictions, including the requirement of photo identification. VERDICT 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.--Susan Catlett, Green Run High School, Virginia Beach

Kirkus Review

What happens when the right to vote is systematically withheld from a portion of the electorate?Goldstone (Unpunished Murder, 2018, etc.) details the complex history of voting for African Americans, including the lasting impact of major decisions made at pivotal points in American history: the Constitutional Convention, the Civil War, the 13th and 14th amendments during Reconstruction, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act and its dismantling by the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts in 2013. By interweaving stories about African Americans who fought for the right to vote and those who worked against them, Goldstone deftly highlights the adversities African Americans have faced to gain and retain access to the ballot. He unpacks many of the structural, systematic, state-sanctioned, and legal blockades to voting, including state constitutional amendments in North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina that insidiously virtually eliminated African American participation. Running parallel to the stories are portrayals of lesser-known heroes like Alex Manly, Judge Alexander Rivers, Cornelius Jones, and Jackson W. Giles who worked to dismantle systemic racism at the ballot box. 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. (glossary, bibliography, source notes, illustration credits, index) (Nonfiction. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



With the army concentrated in the cities or other densely populated areas, the Klan's reputation in the countryside as a terrorist organization beyond the reach of law spread dread among black residents. Often, Klan members needed simply to show up to keep black men from the voting booth. Even worse, in those cases, the Klan would not specifically have broken any laws."If a party of white men, with ropes conspicuous on their saddlebows, rode up to a polling place and announced that hanging would begin in fifteen minutes, though without any more definite reference to anybody, and a group of blacks who had assembled to vote heard the remark and promptly disappeared, votes were lost, but a conviction on a charge of intimidation was difficult. Or if an untraceable rumor that trouble was [looming] for blacks was followed by the mysterious appearance of horsemen on the roads at midnight, firing guns and yelling at nobody in particular, votes again were lost, but no crime or misdemeanor could be brought home to any one."Even with the army in occupation, Klan terror was successful. In the presidential election of 1868, in eleven counties in Georgia, each with a majority of black voters, not a single vote was reported for Grant and the Republicans. That same year, when the Reconstruction state constitution was up for a vote in Mississippi, "it was charged by the Republicans . . . that whites terrorized the negroes by the Kuklux method, and either kept them away from the polls or intimidated them into voting against the Constitution."By 1875, largely because of the campaign of terror by Klan groups and other violent white supremacist organizations, seven of the eleven secessionist states had been "Redeemed," or returned to Democratic control. The remaining four, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, would become the centers of both the war-at-any-cost effort to restore white rule and the last desperate attempts to maintain at least some areas of equal rights in the South.Perched on the fulcrum of this seesaw was the United States Supreme Court. Excerpted from Stolen Justice: The Struggle for African American Voting Rights by Lawrence Goldstone All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.