Library Highlights: Legal History


The Supreme Court and Elections: Into the Political Thicket

Charles L. Zelden

KF4886 .Z45 2010

From the Publisher: Voting is simple in the United States, right? The process of voting (organizing, running and tabulating the results of a popular election) is, in fact, a highly contested act whose forms, meanings, and practical boundaries are open to widely differing interpretations. From questions of who can vote to the tricky problem of accurately counting the votes, popular democracy is still a work in progress in the United States. Add in the complexities of politics and the picture becomes even more complicated.

Taking a chronological approach to the topic, [This book] explores the ways that the Court has struggled with these questions. From the earliest days of the Union when the Supreme Court refused to address the topic, to the early struggles with the Fourteenth Amendment’s impact on the question of who can vote, to the rise and fall of race-based disenfranchisement, to our recent issues of proper districting, campaign finance reform and the struggle to find a workable voting technology, the essay and documents in this reference illuminate the multifaceted nature of voting and election laws. At the same time, this title provides in-depth analysis of the impact of the Court in shaping this ongoing history. Focusing on the practical problems of U.S. voting and its complex development within the framework of the political branches of the government, students and researchers will benefit from the clear picture painted by the author of the current elective structure. Essay and document based, The Supreme Court and Elections is the definitive reference on the application of U.S. law on Americans right to vote and the resulting participatory democracy.

Rising Road: A True Tale of Love, Race, and Religion in America

Sharon Davies

HQ1031 .D37 2010

From the Publisher: It was among the most notorious criminal cases of its day. On August 11, 1921, in Birmingham, Alabama, a Methodist minister named Edwin Stephenson shot and killed a Catholic priest, James Coyle, in broad daylight and in front of numerous witnesses. The killer’s motive? The priest had married Stephenson’s eighteen-year-old daughter Ruth–who had secretly converted to Catholicism three months earlier–to Pedro Gussman, a Puerto Rican migrant and practicing Catholic. Having all but disappeared from historical memory, the murder of Father Coyle and the trial of Reverend Stephenson that followed are vividly resurrected in Sharon Davies’s Rising Road . As Davies reveals in remarkable detail, the case laid bare all the bigotries of its time and place: a simmering hatred not only of African Americans, but of Catholics and foreigners as well. In one of the case’s most interesting twists, Reverend Stephenson hired future U.S. Supreme Court justice Hugo Black to lead his defense team. Though Black would later be regarded as a champion of civil rights, at the time the talented defense lawyer was only months away from joining the Ku Klux Klan, which held fundraising drives to finance Stephenson’s defense. Entering a plea of temporary insanity, Black and his client used both religion and race–accusing the Puerto Rican husband of being “a Negro”–in the hopes of persuading the jury to forgive the priest’s murder. Placing this story in its full social and historical context, [the author] brings to life a heinous crime and its aftermath, in a brilliant, in-depth examination of the consequences of prejudice in the Jim Crow era.

The History of White People

Nell Irvin Painter

E184.A1 P29 2010

From the Publisher: A mind-expanding and myth-destroying exploration of “whiteness”—an illuminating work on the history of race and power. Eminent historian Nell Irvin Painter tells perhaps the most important forgotten story in American history. Beginning at the roots of Western civilization, she traces the invention of the idea of a white race—often for economic, scientific, and political ends. She shows how the origins of American identity in the eighteenth century were intrinsically tied to the elevation of white skin into the embodiment of beauty, power, and intelligence; how the great American intellectuals— including Ralph Waldo Emerson—insisted that only Anglo Saxons were truly American; and how the definitions of who is “white” and who is “American” have evolved over time. A story filled with towering historical figures, The History of White People closes an enormous gap in a literature that has long focused on the nonwhite, and it forcefully reminds us that the concept of “race” is an all-too-human invention whose meaning, importance, and reality have changed according to a long and rich history.

The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment: Judging Death

Michael E. Parrish

KF9227.C2 P37 2010

From the Publisher: From the late nineteenth century to the present, decisions by the Supreme Court have played a significant role in how American governments, especially at the state level, have carried out the death penalty. With more than 3,400 prisoners, including 118 foreign nationals, now on death rows, the Court’s role is not likely to diminish in this area over the next several decades, barring a major shift in state laws and public opinion.

Supreme Court and Capital Punishment, […] explores how Supreme Court rulings over its history have shaped and reshaped the rules under which Americans have been tried, convicted, sentenced and put to death for capital offenses. Through judicial decisions and other primary documents, this reference explores the impact of these rulings upon the behavior of legislators, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and defendants. Considerable emphasis is placed upon the twentieth century, especially the period since the 1972 Furman v. Georgia case. Since Furman, few areas of constitutional doctrine have undergone more abrupt changes than Court-mandated standards for administering capital punishment. A second principal theme of this volume is an examination of the impact of race upon the long evolution of the Court’s death penalty jurisprudence. As defendants and victims, African-Americans on trial for their lives in Southern courts became the central figures in the design and redesign of capital punishment in the twentieth century.

From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America

Richard Mendelson

KF3924.W5 M46 2009

From the Publisher: Mendelson brings together his expertise as both a Napa Valley lawyer and a winemaker into this accessible overview of American wine law from colonial times to the present. It is a story of fits and starts that provides a fascinating chronicle of the history of wine in the United States told through the lens of the law. From the country’s early support for wine as a beverage to the moral and religious fervor that resulted in Prohibition and to the governmental controls that followed Repeal, Mendelson takes us to the present day—and to the emergence of an authentic and significant wine culture. He explains how current laws shape the wine industry in such areas as pricing and taxation, licensing, appellations, health claims and warnings, labeling, and domestic and international commerce. As he explores these and other legal and policy issues, [the author] lucidly highlights the concerns that have made wine alternatively the demon or the darling of American society—and at the same time illuminates the ways in which lives and livelihoods are affected by the rise and fall of social movements.

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