While the Supreme Court is often presented in American history as a protector of civil liberties, its record across the centuries provides a more complex picture. While the short period of the 1930s to the 1970s saw the Court end segregation and safeguard both free speech and the vote, during the preceding period, the Court largely ignored or suppressed basic rights for many Americans. The succeeding period, too, saw a retreat and even regression on gains made toward racial justice. Prizewinning author and professor of history Orville Vernon Burton charts the Court’s racial jurisprudence, discussing the many cases involving America’s racial minorities and the impact of individual rulings.
Recorded on July 6, 2023