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27 April 2021 STOLEN JUSTICE: THE STRUGGLE FOR AFRICAN AMERICAN VOTING RIGHTS by Lawrence Goldstone, Scholastic Focus, January 2020, 288p., ISBN: 978-1-338-32350-4


“President Donald Trump in recent days shared tweets of Black people being violent and asked why people weren’t protesting over it. These tweets, coming amid nationwide demonstrations over racism and police brutality, echoed the rhetoric of white supremacists and appear to be part of a broader strategy from Trump to exploit fear and prejudice as he fights to salvage his vulnerable reelection campaign. Trump leaned on racism and xenophobia to garner support during his 2016 campaign, and he’s employing a similar approach as the US gets closer to Election Day.”

-- Business Insider, “Trump is increasingly relying on white-supremacy ploys to fire up his base as he panics over his reelection chances” (6/23/20) 


“He’s depending on our silence

While he orchestrates our fear

If our neighbors are so satisfied

Why they comin’ here?

I’m gonna vote

I’m gonna vote that mutha out”

-- Little Steven (1984)


“As the 1880s progressed, white supremacists openly and almost gleefully committed voter fraud across the South. In 1900, on the floor of the United States Senate, South Carolina senator “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman would brag about the methods used to deny black citizens the vote in those days. ‘We took the government away. We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it.’

Still, these same white supremacists felt as much need to justify this behavior as they had to justify slavery. Since even they knew it would not do to enslave equals--or to steal the government from them--they took the position that people of color were, as a race, simply not equal to whites.

But just how they did this evolved.”


STOLEN JUSTICE is the tale of that evolution. The sordid American history that Lawrence Goldstone recounts in this fascinating and horrifying read makes a mockery of the sentiment in the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal.” 


STOLEN JUSTICE focuses on national events and Supreme Court cases that unjustly prevented Black Americans from voting, beginning back at the founding of the republic. The author concludes with the 1903 Black voting-related Court case Giles v. Harris, which was decided in the wake of the infamous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case: 


“But neither the Supreme Court of the United States nor Oliver Wendell Holmes personally had any intention of compelling Southern states to grant black citizens the right to vote, no matter what the Fifteenth Amendment said. In the last two pages of the opinion, Holmes denied Giles’s claim but what was more significant were the ridiculous lengths to which he was forced to go to justify his opinion. Holmes’s reasoning was such a distortion of constitution principles that legal scholar Richard Pildes called Giles v. Harris the ‘one key moment, one decisive turning point...in the bleak and unfamiliar saga...of the history of anti-democracy in the United States.’”


Then, in an epilogue, the author fast forwards to the modern Civil Rights Movement and the horrific events that took place at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. He explains how, following years of organizing, the nation’s reaction to those events led to enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He also explains that the law was eventually gutted in 2013 by the Court’s Shelby decision.


The author makes the case that the three branches of government have been controlled by white supremacists from the ratification of the Constitution right up to today.  Of course, one could argue, things are better now than when “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman was around. But when you consider the recent voting roll purges; the elimination of voting locations in minority districts; and the former President’s trash talk about voting by mail, it’s just more of the same.


Will the protests instigated by the murder of George Floyd bring about real change? STOLEN JUSTICE is the right book at the right time. It’s an exceedingly valuable resource for understanding how, in such a terrible variety of ways, Black Americans have been repeatedly robbed of their right to vote.  It provides great information on how we got here and provides a sense of how big a boulder needs to be rolled away if we are ever going to achieve a more just and perfect union.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com






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