A Constitutional Purge

in Reconsidering Roosevelt on Race

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2003 | ISBN: 9780226500867
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226561127 | DOI:
A Constitutional Purge

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This chapter analyzes the Roosevelt Justice Department's program to extend federal protection of individual rights, most importantly for African Americans. Special attention is given to the creative efforts of the Justice Department's newly created Civil Rights Section (CRS) to revive, at times in cooperation with the NAACP, “dead-letter” Reconstruction-era civil rights laws through controversial prosecutions. Focus is placed on the Justice Department efforts in the areas of the white primary, the poll tax, lynching, and police brutality, through which prosecutions, it is argued, the CRS aided in constructing rights-expanding norms on the Supreme Court. In developing this argument, the extent to which World War II enabled the Roosevelt administration to carry out a campaign in the courts that sought to make American democracy more inclusive and to punish those responsible for violent attacks against black Americans in the South is also considered.

Keywords: Roosevelt Justice Department; Civil Rights Section; dead letter; Reconstruction; American democracy

Chapter.  14783 words. 

Subjects: US Politics

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