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Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality
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Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality

4.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  439 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Simple Justice is the definitive history of the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education and the epic struggle for racial equality in this country. Combining intensive research with original interviews with surviving participants, Richard Kluger provides the fullest possible view of the human and legal drama in the years before 1954, the cumulative assaults on the white p ...more
Paperback, 880 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Vintage (first published December 12th 1975)
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A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. GainesOne L by Scott TurowSnow Falling on Cedars by David GutersonThe Trial by Franz KafkaSimple Justice by Richard Kluger
ABA 30/30
5th out of 35 books — 8 voters
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73rd out of 193 books — 110 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,499)
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Mar 15, 2014 Becky rated it really liked it
It was a long one, but I'm glad I got through this important book that documented the history and legacy of Brown v. Board of Education.

Some exceptional quotes:

"In their zeal to slash 'handouts' to those struggling with poverty, the new conservative policymakers who would run the federal government for the next dozen years never bothered to analyze the potential cost benefits of sustained rehabilitation programs for the nation's needy, i.e., whether a well-directed helping hand in the form of pr
Frank Stein
Dec 06, 2011 Frank Stein rated it really liked it
First off, I have to say that the book is just too damn long. At almost 800 pages it manages to recount in mind-numbing detail the daily travails of the five lower court cases that were combined on appeal to become the Brown v. Board of Education case that appeared before the Supreme Court in 1952. It also constantly interrupts the narrative of each of these cases to recount at length the biography of almost everyone involved in the cases, from second-tier researchers to assistant counsels. Its ...more
Nicole R
I typically resent having reading assigned for a class. Especially when the professor assigns upwards of 150 pages a week, which eats into my personal reading time. But, I did not mind in the slightest with Simple Justice. It was well-written, intriguing, and provided great insight to what it takes to strategically position an important issue in the court system so that the Supreme Court takes it up at the right time and addresses the exact question that you want addressed.

The scope of this book
Mark Bowles
Aug 30, 2014 Mark Bowles rated it really liked it
A. Overview
1. “The American nation must exploit its inner resources...if it is to linger long at the center of the global stage. This is a book about the resurrection of those inner resources. (Ix)” The nine people of the Supreme Court is the least democratic branch of the national government. It is to these isolated people that America has brought its most important political and social problems. This book is the history of one lawsuit, but it is not a study of law. Instead, it examines how law
Dec 30, 2014 Adam rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Adam by: Randy

This is unquestionably one of the best books I've ever read, and, I really cannot imagine how it could be outdone. To summarize the book would be unfathomable. A description of its scope would inevitably fall short. The writing and voice is so clear, yet the depth of the material is so great.

As the subtitle notes, Simple Justice is in a way, a history of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education. But to say it is a history of the case alone risks suggesting that the
Sep 04, 2012 David rated it it was amazing
Why try to sum it up myself, when the author does a perfect job at the end of the book:

"Exorcism is rarely a pretty spectacle. It is frequently marked by violent spasms and protracted trauma, and so it has been in the two decades since Brown signaled the beginning of the nation's effort to rid itself of the consuming demons of racism...the bruising post-Brown years have clearly marked the onset of the third major stage in the history of black-white relations in America.
During the first, blacks w
Greg Diamond
May 30, 2009 Greg Diamond rated it it was amazing
I was literally going to say that Simple Justice is the definitive history of the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education and the epic struggle for racial equality in this country -- but that's exactly what the books description says, so there's no need to reiterate it. Instead I'll say this: if you want to see what Brown and the people and institutions behind it and opposing it and considering it and the social milieu that made it necessary were all about, you are in for a wonderful take, and ...more
Jennifer Saint-preux
Sep 04, 2013 Jennifer Saint-preux rated it really liked it
What i like most about this book is that for a non fiction piece, it reads like novel. Although long, it accurately recounts the events leading up to Brown v. Board. I especially appreciate Kluger's successful attempt to demonstrate that there were many who helped build the foundation necessary to be successful in arguing Brown before the Supremes; "characters" who are often overlooked in the ubiquitous history class.
May 30, 2013 Sara rated it really liked it
Overall, well-written, good story-telling, a fairly rigorous historical account of racial discrimination in America. I focused on the Brown section as I'm working on a project related to it, and it seems inclusive and well-done. I'm not sure it's the foil to Rosenberg's Hollow Hope that everyone cites it as being...
Separate but equal was never equal.
Supreme Court decision upheld Jim Crow laws and the Federal govt. abided by Jim Crow laws in their own employment, cafeteria, offices, etc.
The Garland Fund (Charles Garland's inheritance that he set up as a trust, living as a farmer himself) provided money to attack segregation. The Margold Plan proposed not to dispute the legality of segregation, but to sue institutions and/or states for not providing equal education as per segregation laws. Attack graduate sc
Yvonne Ryan
Sep 12, 2007 Yvonne Ryan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
This is an extraordinarily readable account of the long battle to desegregate public schools, although the implications were much more far-reaching than that. Kluger manages to make what could have been a dry, legalistic report into a gripping story of courage and determination. His portraits of the main characters, of the lawyers, the plaintiffs and those who resisted change, are sympathetic and three-dimensional. He writes vivdly about the lengths to which both sides went to present their case ...more
Dennis Fischman
Mar 24, 2010 Dennis Fischman rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
It took more than one lawsuit to make segregation illegal, and it will take more than lawsuits to make it go away. But deep in my heart, I do believe....

I would have liked to give this book five stars. It's such a definitive history, and its heart is so obviously in the right place. Its analysis of legal argument and strategy is enlightening. But Kluger never met a small town in the South he didn't want to describe in topographical detail, nor a civil rights lawyer (nor opponent) whose career an
Kent Hayden
Mar 19, 2014 Kent Hayden rated it liked it
A very well written account of a famous civil rights court decision. The author uses half the book to review the path that led to Brown vs the Board and puts it in context with pre-Civil War, Reconstruction, 14 and 15 amendments, and the Jim Crow laws that watered down those amendments to uninforcible constitutional law hiding behind state vs federal juristiction
Apr 04, 2010 Chris rated it liked it
Kluger could have paid better tribute to the men and women who devoted their lives to ending school segregation by structuring the book around the players, strategies, or legal issues involved. Instead this story gets churned through the author's politics and language/diatribes to that effect. The story of the NAACP is very detailed, and the legal defense fund lawyers come across as brilliant and devoted, so I would recommend it to anyone looking for an inspiring account of this (or any) legal c ...more
One of the better studies of Brown v. Board and its significance.
Bill Daniels
Nov 26, 2014 Bill Daniels rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an encyclopaedic history of American civil rights litigation.
Doris Raines
Mar 30, 2016 Doris Raines rated it did not like it
Shelves: doris-shelf
This. Book. Not. For. Me. It. Has. Know. Meaning.?
Bill Sleeman
Nov 01, 2014 Bill Sleeman rated it it was amazing

The best book on the subject!
Jun 12, 2016 Heather marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-buy
Recommended by Jon Buchan
Apr 27, 2008 Sherri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in history or in the civil rights movement in the U.S.
I read this book in college, as a class requirement, and I approached it as work rather then enjoyment. It was a long book but it was very well written, (felt a bit like a novel), so it wasn't a burden and I really enjoyed it. The author was able to give all the facts without leaving out the emotion and making the entire book not just a history lesson, but a story that many people would enjoy reading. If I ever get the time I would love to read this again so that I may truly appreciate the entir ...more
Feb 18, 2013 Camille rated it liked it
The book is a thorough introduction into the community struggle and legal movement that resulted in the Brown v. Board of Education decision. At times, the author's desire to provide context results in a strange fixation on the perceived qualities of the individuals involved.... girls and women described according to looks and boys and men described according to character. This is a serious flaw nearly, but not completely, undermines the story of commitment to cause that the author seeks to tell ...more
Aug 13, 2008 Nora rated it it was amazing
This is supposed to be the definitive history of the legal struggle for equal education in America. Good shit, but it is LONG. Mostly the story of Brown v. Board and the NAACP lawyers who fought so hard for it. Thoroughly researched and very impressive... Towards the beginning it's heavy on the story of the people who would become plaintiffs and then towards the end it's got a lot of Supreme Court insider stories. Written by a white guy, but he is pretty thoughtful and has an amazing vocabulary.
May 01, 2007 igor rated it it was amazing
Great book. it's very thorough (800+ pages) and may not be for everyone but it gives a great look at three major topics:
1. Segregation, especially when it comes to education, in the South
2. The legal strategies employed by Marshall and the NAACP to try to combat various segregation laws
3. An inside look at the Warren court of '53-54 and their internal debates, deliberations, etc.

History buffs, legal buffs and civil rights buffs will enjoy it.
Helen Crow
Feb 23, 2012 Helen Crow rated it it was amazing
Truly distressing, all that smug white folks did over 150 years of American history including US Supreme Court decisions that preceded Brown v. Board -- decisions no one told about in my public school education (all after Brown v. Board). The facts are so sad that the book is hard to read, but it is well written and important.
Stephen Graham
Oct 16, 2012 Stephen Graham rated it really liked it
In many ways this is a history of the Supreme Court from the Civil War through 1954. Moderately partisan, the book does an excellent job of summarizing the history of and facts surrounding the school desegregation fight. The final chapter, added in 2004, is weaker and more polemic than the remainder.
Dec 22, 2012 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great work on the decades long struggle to overturn legal segregation in public schools. Read it in college and had a profound effect upon me - many don't know or appreciate the tireless devotion of Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, or the wise leadership of Earl Warren.
Sep 29, 2009 Jamie rated it it was amazing
It's the best thing I've read on civil rights. It's comprehensive and a great documentation of the civil rights court cases. I love it! I've always wanted to learn more about our unsavory segregationist past. It makes my knowledge of American history much more complete.
Apr 10, 2008 jeanette rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-reads
This book is dense, but it is really interesting. The text chronicles the history of Brown v. The Board of Education,yet begins not long after the Civil War. Kluger is very good at weaving legalese with narration and the book is incredibly interesting.
Paul Kilmer
Apr 16, 2014 Paul Kilmer rated it really liked it
An exhaustive and rewarding read on the topic of Brown v. Board of Education, I only rated it 4 stars due to the sheer length of the tome.
Sep 13, 2007 Lennon rated it really liked it
This is a really huge book. Takes forever to read. It is full of knowledge that is important if you want to understand race relations in America.
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Richard Kluger won the Pulitzer Prize for Ashes to Ashes, a searing history of the cigarette industry, and was a two-time National Book Award finalist (for Simple Justice and The Paper). He lives near San Francisco.
More about Richard Kluger...

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“Among them was a hypocritical charge, in his original draft of the Declaration, that the King of England was a prime promoter of the slave trade. But Jefferson’s language was so sharply chastising that, had it been included in the Declaration, it would have deeply undermined continuation of slavery once the colonies had severed ties to the alleged instigator of the loathsome practice. And this the slaveholding South was not prepared to consider; the offending words were struck from the great document.” 0 likes
“We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.” 0 likes
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