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Black Resistance, White Law


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Mary Frances Berry is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, and the author of nine books. The recipient of thirty-three honorary degrees, she has been chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, is a regular contributor to Politico, and has appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, Anderson Cooper 360, The Daily Show, Tavis Smiley, and PBS's NewsHour.


Arguing that federal law still perpetuates racial subordination through toleration of police abuse and racial violence, Berry here updates a study she originally published in 1971. Aimed mainly at students, the book presents an account of the policies and theories of repression spanning from the introduction of slavery in 1619 to the suppression of the abolitionist movement, violence under Reconstruction and 20th-century lynchings. Berry, who teaches law and history at the University of Pennsylvania, shows that concern about the country's world image led to a more vigorous federal role in the 1960s. Analyzing events of recent years, she observes that even under the more progressive Carter administration, the federal government was reluctant to prosecute police abuse under federal statutes, and she cites numerous instances of hate crimes and police brutality under subsequent Republican administrations--the 1985 arson of a black family's home in a white area of Wren, Miss., for example, and racial harassment on college campuses. She concludes that until government treats racial violence against blacks as seriously as it does attacks on whites, black rebellions will continue. (Feb.)

"Once you've read this book, your understanding of race relations and your vision of America will be changed forever."--Don Edwards, former U.S. Representative

"Black Resistance/White Law offers an opportunity to revisit a historical experience that the successes of the civil rights movement of the past fifty years have allowed many of us to forget."--Chicago Tribune

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