Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., a private, nonprofit human rights organization, helping the poor, the incarcerated, the condemned and children. He is also professor of law at New York University School of Law and received the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, and also won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color.
The meaning of the words justice served relies on the social, political and legal contexts in which it is applied.
Two 19th-century U.S. Supreme Court cases reflect how the Court’s decisions can be swayed by contemporary racial politics. In its 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, the Court declared that African Americans could not sue for freedom in federal court because they were not considered citizens. This decision reversed 28 years of precedent, reflecting more the heightened division over slavery than impartial justice.
On June 19th 1964, the Senate passed the Civil Rights Act, breaking the 83-day filibuster by Southern Democrats. While this act is recognized as a groundbreaking piece of civil rights legislation for African Americans, it also held the key to future civil rights advancements and protections for women.
Two days before the final vote, Representative Howard W. Smith, a powerful Democrat from Virginia, added sex as a protected class to Title VII, a section that prohibits discrimination by employers. Historians have been wondering about his motivations ever since.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the celebrated civil rights case, Brown v. Board of Education. However, on May 3, 1954, two weeks before the Brown ruling, the Supreme Court delivered another important decision in the American Civil Rights movement.
In Hernandez v. Texas, the court declared that the 14th Amendment’s right to equal protection extended to all racial and ethnic groups. In 1951, Texas convicted an agricultural worker named Pedro Hernandez of murdering Joe Espinosa.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This landmark legislation made it illegal to discriminate against someone based upon their race or place of birth.
Before 1964, the experiences of transplanted Africans in this country were dramatically influenced by slavery and Jim Crow racial segregation. During the past 50 years, many African Americans, under the protection of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, have achieved a level of social and economic mobility that their ancestors could only have dreamt of.
2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark civil rights case, Brown v. Board of Education. However, Brown could have been decided one year earlier, if not for some unusual circumstances that brought the lawyers back to the Supreme Court to argue the case… for a second time.
I have been maligning Lee Daniels' The Butler as a movie without a central storyline, but my powers of prophecy were weak: its story is the whole civil rights movement, from beginning lunch counters to South African apartheid and the Reagan administration.