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Kenneth Mack’s "Representing the Race"
“Ken Mack brings to this monumental work not only a profound understanding of law, biography, history and racial relations but also an engaging narrative style that brings each of his subjects dynamically alive. It is a truly wonderful book.”—Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
About the Book (Harvard University Press, 2012):
A native of Central Pennsylvania who earned his Ph.D. at Princeton, Harvard Law Professor Kenneth W. Mack has earned accolades as “a renowned scholar of race and the law.” His new book, Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer, tells the story of an enduring paradox of American race relations, through the prism of a collective biography of African American lawyers who worked in the era of segregation. Practicing the law and seeking justice for diverse clients, they confronted a tension between their racial identity as black men and women and their professional identity as lawyers. Both blacks and whites demanded that these attorneys stand apart from their racial community as members of the legal fraternity. Yet, at the same time, they were expected to be “authentic”—that is, in sympathy with the black masses. This conundrum, as Mack shows, continues to reverberate through American politics today.
Mack reorients what we thought we knew about famous figures such as Thurgood Marshall, who rose to prominence by convincing local blacks and prominent whites that he was—as nearly as possible—one of them. But he also introduces a little-known cast of characters to the American racial narrative. These include Loren Miller, the biracial Los Angeles lawyer who, after learning in college that he was black, became a Marxist critic of his fellow black attorneys and ultimately a leading civil rights advocate; and Pauli Murray, a black woman who seemed neither black nor white, neither man nor woman, who helped invent sex discrimination as a category of law. The stories of these lawyers pose the unsettling question: what, ultimately, does it mean to “represent” a minority group in the give-and-take of American law and politics?
Copies of Representing the Race, the WITF-MidtownScholar “Pick of the Month” for January 2013, are available at Harrisburg’s Midtown Scholar Bookstore Café and online at MidtownScholar.com.
David G. Garrow for The Washington Post
Emily Newburger for the Harvard Law Bulletin
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