They say that history is written by the victors. But not in the case of the most famous dissenter on the Supreme Court. Almost a century after his death, John Marshall Harlan’s words helped end segregation and gave us our civil rights and our modern economic freedom.
But his legacy would not have been possible without the courage of Robert Harlan, a slave who John’s father raised like a son in the same household. After the Civil War, Robert emerges as a political leader. With Black people holding power in the Republican Party, it is Robert who helps John land his appointment to the Supreme Court.
At first, John is awed by his fellow justices, but the country is changing. Northern whites are prepared to take away black rights to appease the South. Giant trusts are monopolizing entire industries. Against this onslaught, the Supreme Court seemed all too willing to strip away civil rights and invalidate labor protections. So as case after case comes before the court, challenging his core values, John makes a fateful decision: He breaks with his colleagues in fundamental ways, becoming the nation’s prime defender of the rights of Black people, immigrant laborers, and people in distant lands occupied by the US.
Harlan’s dissents, particularly in Plessy v. Ferguson, were widely read and a source of hope for decades. Thurgood Marshall called Harlan’s Plessy dissent his “Bible”—and his legal roadmap to overturning segregation. In the end, Harlan’s words built the foundations for the legal revolutions of the New Deal and Civil Rights eras.
Spanning from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement and beyond, The Great Dissenter is a “magnificent” (Douglas Brinkley) and “thoroughly researched” (The New York Times) rendering of the American legal system’s most significant failures and most inspiring successes.
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|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||8.30(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.70(d)|
About the Author
Table of Contents
Introduction: A Moral Hero 1
Prologue: "One Man with God Is a Majority" 11
Chapter 1 A Father's Prophecy 35
Chapter 2 Journey into the Heart of Slavery 53
Chapter 3 Faith and the Founding Fathers 70
Chapter 4 Dread and Dred Scott 92
Chapter 5 The Soul of Kentucky 117
Chapter 6 John vs. John 145
Chapter 7 "Knowledge Is Power" 167
Chapter 8 John, Robert, and Benjamin 192
Chapter 9 "Do-Do Take Care" 216
Chapter 10 Destiny 233
Chapter 11 Standing Alone 256
Chapter 12 "The Colonel Has Indeed Surprised Us" 271
Chapter 13 In Trusts We Trust 294
Chapter 14 Requiem for the Gilded Age 308
Chapter 15 The Humblest and Most Powerful 329
Chapter 16 The Walls of Segregation 352
Chapter 17 The Constitution Follows the Flag 371
Chapter 18 Freedom in the Workplace 393
Chapter 19 "I Am a Innocent Man" 411
Chapter 20 "Ever May His Name Be Said in Reverence" 425
Chapter 21 Self-inflicted Wounds 447
Chapter 22 "A Vicarious Atonement" 458
Chapter 23 "Justice Harlan Concurring" 470
Epilogue "Our Basic Legal Creed" 485
Photo Credits 611