Promises to Keep

Promises to Keep : African-Americans and the Constitutional Order, 1776 to the Present

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African-Americans have had an ambivalent relationship with the Constitution for more than two hundred years. Throughout most of American history, racist interpretations of the Constitution have sanctioned a legal system supportive of slavery, marked blacks as inferiors, rendered them politically powerless, and denied them justice and access to society's resources. Yet both black and white opponents of slavery and racial subordination--from antebellum abolitionists to twentieth-century civil rights leaders--have found principles in the Constitution that support their demands for freedom, citizenship, and equality. In Promises to Keep, Donald G. Nieman tells the story of this paradoxical relationship, tracing it from the birth of the Republic to current battles over school segregation, voting rights, and affirmative action. While Nieman examines the devastating effects of constitutionally sanctioned racism on the lives of African-Americans, he also shows how blacks and their white allies have been active agents of constitutional change since the early nineteenth century, forging an egalitarian constitutionalism and using it to press a reluctant nation to honor its long-deferred promise of equality. Compact, lively, and readable, Promises to Keep illuminates the past and offers a fresh perspective on the current debate over civil rights, showing how it too often ignores the tragic history of law and race in America. This is the first volume of Bicentennial Essays on the Bill of Rights, an important series co-sponsored by the Organization of American Historians and Oxford University Press, under the general editorship of Kermit L. Hall.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 275 pages
  • 136.7 x 204 x 15.5mm | 283.66g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195055616
  • 9780195055610

Review quote

"An excellent companion to provide depth to the study of American Government."--P.J. Bodelson, St. Cloud State University"Nieman's study is the first volume in the Organization of American Historians' Bicentennial Essays on the Bill of Rights. If subsequent essays are of the high quality that Nieman has established in this volume, it will be a noteworthy series."--The Historian"An impressive job. As a study of the paradoxes of the American constitution in regards to racism he provides answers to many questions and induces commentary as to the ability of America to make or break her promises of democracy. His book is clearheaded and reasonable; the bibliography is a gem. The book will surely prove invaluable for a variety of studies including American, Southern, and African-American history."--Ervin L. Jordan, University of Virginia"An excellent vehicle for beginning to explore the complexities of the relationship between African-Americans and the constitutional system."--Thomas B. Mega, University of St. Thomas"A thorough, provocative account of the uneven treatment of the U.S. Constitution with respect to American blacks."--William Burges, Southwest State University"Very informative, comprehensive and thought-provoking....Examines the role of race in the shaping and evolution of the Constitution."--Legal Studies Forum"An insightful analysis of the impact of constitutional change on the African-American community. Moreover, a very readable discussion of major legal issues related to race and ethnicity."--Ricardo Romo, University of Texas, Austin"Clear and forceful....Belongs on the shelves of all those who teach American history regardless of their specialty."--Georgia Historical Quarterly"Informs readers with a historical perspective from which to evaluate the current debate....Fills a void, provides insights into today's events, and is undergirded by solid historical research."--The Journal of American History"Excellent....Especially good on the legal history of Reconstruction."--W. Marvin Dulaney, University of West Texas, Arlington "An excellent companion to provide depth to the study of American Government."--P.J. Bodelson, St. Cloud State University "Nieman's study is the first volume in the Organization of American Historians' Bicentennial Essays on the Bill of Rights. If subsequent essays are of the high quality that Nieman has established in this volume, it will be a noteworthy series."--The Historian "An impressive job. As a study of the paradoxes of the American constitution in regards to racism he provides answers to many questions and induces commentary as to the ability of America to make or break her promises of democracy. His book is clearheaded and reasonable; the bibliography is a gem. The book will surely prove invaluable for a variety of studies including American, Southern, and African-American history."--Ervin L. Jordan, University of Virginia "An excellent vehicle for beginning to explore the complexities of the relationship between African-Americans and the constitutional system."--Thomas B. Mega, University of St. Thomas "A thorough, provocative account of the uneven treatment of the U.S. Constitution with respect to American blacks."--William Burges, Southwest State University "Very informative, comprehensive and thought-provoking....Examines the role of race in the shaping and evolution of the Constitution."--Legal Studies Forum "An insightful analysis of the impact of constitutional change on the African-American community. Moreover, a very readable discussion of major legal issues related to race and ethnicity."--Ricardo Romo, University of Texas, Austin "Clear and forceful....Belongs on the shelves of all those who teach American history regardless oftheir specialty."--Georgia Historical Quarterly "Informs readers with a historical perspective from which to evaluate the current debate....Fills a void, provides insights into today's events, and is undergirded by solid historical research."--The Journal of American History "Excellent....Especially good on the legal history of Reconstruction."--W. Marvin Dulaney, University of West Texas, Arlington "An excellent companion to provide depth to the study of American Government."--P.J. Bodelson, St. Cloud State University "Nieman's study is the first volume in the Organization of American Historians' Bicentennial Essays on the Bill of Rights. If subsequent essays are of the high quality that Nieman has established in this volume, it will be a noteworthy series."--The Historian "An impressive job. As a study of the paradoxes of the American constitution in regards to racism he provides answers to many questions and induces commentary as to the ability of America to make or break her promises of democracy. His book is clearheaded and reasonable; the bibliography is a gem. The book will surely prove invaluable for a variety of studies including American, Southern, and African-American history."--Ervin L. Jordan, University of Virginia "An excellent vehicle for beginning to explore the complexities of the relationship between African-Americans and the constitutional system."--Thomas B. Mega, University of St. Thomas "A thorough, provocative account of the uneven treatment of the U.S. Constitution with respect to American blacks."--William Burges, Southwest State University "Very informative, comprehensive and thought-provoking....Examines the role of race in the shaping and evolution of the Constitution."--Legal Studies Forum "An insightful analysis of the impact of constitutional change on the African-American community. Moreover, a very readable discussion of major legal issues related to race and ethnicity."--Ricardo Romo, University of Texas, Austin "Clear and forceful....Belongs on the shelves of allthose who teach American history regardless of their specialty."--Georgia Historical Quarterly "Informs readers with a historical perspective from which to evaluate the current debate....Fills a void, provides insights into today's events, and is undergirded by solid historical research."--The Journal of American History "Excellent....Especially good on the legal history of Reconstruction."--W. Marvin Dulaney, University of West Texas, Arlington "An excellent companion to provide depth to the study of American Government."--P.J. Bodelson, St. Cloud State University"Nieman's study is the first volume in the Organization of American Historians' Bicentennial Essays on the Bill of Rights. If subsequent essays are of the high quality that Nieman has established in this volume, it will be a noteworthy series."--The Historian"An impressive job. As a study of the paradoxes of the American constitution in regards to racism he provides answers to many questions and induces commentary as to the ability of America to make or break her promises of democracy. His book is clearheaded and reasonable; the bibliography is a gem. The book will surely prove invaluable for a variety of studies including American, Southern, and African-American history."--Ervin L. Jordan, University of Virginia"An excellent vehicle for beginning to explore the complexities of the relationship between African-Americans and the constitutional system."--Thomas B. Mega, University of St. Thomas"A thorough, provocative account of the uneven treatment of the U.S. Constitution with respect to American blacks."--William Burges, Southwest State University"Very informative, comprehensive and thought-provoking....Examines the role of race in the shaping and evolution of the Constitution."--Legal Studies Forum"An insightful analysis of the impact of constitutional change on the African-American community. Moreover, a very readable discussion of major legal issues related to race and ethnicity."--Ricardo Romo, University of Texas, Austin"Clear and forceful....Belongs on the shelves of all those who teach American history regardless of theirspecialty."--Georgia Historical Quarterly"Informs readers with a historical perspective from which to evaluate the current debate....Fills a void, provides insights into today's events, and is undergirded by solid historical research."--The Journal of American History"Excellent....Especially good on the legal history of Reconstruction."--W. Marvin Dulaney, University of West Texas, Arlingtonshow more

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1 8% (1)
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