Winner of the Sidney Hillman Prize
Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction
Winner of the Scribes Book Award from the American Society of Writers on Legal Subjects
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award
The 1954 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Brown v. Board of Education (of Topeka, Kansas) brought centuries of legal segregation in this country to an end. It was and is without question one of the truly significant events in American history. The case 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 unpheavals of the 1960s.
Simple Justice is the story of that battle. It traces the entire background of the epochal ruling, from its remote legal and cultural roots to the complex personalities of those involved in making it. Here is the human drama, in all its dimensions: people bucking the white power structure in Topeka, braving night riders in South Carolina, rallying high school students in Virginia—and at a dozen times and places showing their refusal to accept defeat. Here, too, is the extraordinary tale of the black legal establishment forced literally to invent itself before it could join the fight, thus patiently assembling, in courtroom after courtroom, a body of law that would serve to free its people.
We see how two great forces—the groundswell black urge for fair treatment and the cumulative advance of the law—led relentlessly, inevitably, to the Supreme Court and the final showdown. And Kluger lays bare the disagreements and intense and highly personal convictions of the nine Justices, showing above all how Chief Justice Earl Warren, new to the Court but old in the ways of politics, achieved the impossible—a unanimous decision.
Richard Kluger has added a new final chapter for this anniversary edition published 50 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, showing how the issues covered in Simple Justice have evolved since the book was first published in 1976.
“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.” —Harvard Law Review
“A thought-provoking work that should become a part of the standard literature on race relations.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Kluger’ s exhaustively documented chronicle remains the richest book yet written about Brown and one of the finest works of history ever to appear. The Pulitzer Prize board’ s failure to honor it is, in retrospect, a glaring embarrassment (Kluger did receive a 1997 Pulitzer for Ashes to Ashes…). Publication of a new edition of Simple Justice this spring offers a renewed opportunity to absorb one of the essential stories of American history. . . . Kluger’s powerfully rendered accounts of preliminary events convey a sense of high drama and uncertainty about the cases’ eventual outcome. . . . Beautifully written.” —The Nation
WINNER 1976 - Sidney Hillman Prize
WINNER 1977 - Anisfield-Wolf Book Award
FINALIST 1976 - National Book Critics Circle Awards
Richard Kluger worked as a journalist with the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and the New York Herald Tribune (he was its last literary editor) before entering book publishing. After serving as executive editor at Simon & Schuster and as editor in chief at Atheneum, he turned to writing fiction and social history. He is the author of six novels (and two others with his wife, Phyllis), two National Book Award finalists—Simple Justice and The Paper (a history of the Herald Tribune)—and a Pulitzer Prize–winning history of the American cigarette business, Ashes to Ashes. He lives with his wife in Berkeley, California