'Neutral Principles': Rethinking the Legal History of Civil Rights, 1934-1964

53 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2009 Last revised: 11 Mar 2012

See all articles by Anders Walker

Anders Walker

Saint Louis University - School of Law

Date Written: March 10, 2009


This paper recovers Columbia Law Professor Herbert Wechsler's constitutional involvement in the long civil rights movement. Derided for criticizing Brown v. Board of Education in 1959, Wechsler first became involved in civil rights litigation in the 1930s, continued to be interested in civil rights issues in the 1940s, and argued one of the most important civil rights cases to come before the Supreme Court in the 1960s. His critique of Brown, this article maintains, derived not from a disinterest in the black struggle but from a larger conviction that racial reform should be process rather than rights-based. By recovering Wechsler's approach, this article suggests a new paradigm for understanding the Supreme Court's role in the civil rights movement, one that focuses on process-based rulings like New York Times v. Sullivan, not Brown.

Keywords: Wechsler, constitutional law, neutral principles, civil rights, Brown v. Board of Education, Herndon, United States v. Classic, International Labor Defense, ILD, New York Times v. Sullivan, legal process

Suggested Citation

Walker, Anders, 'Neutral Principles': Rethinking the Legal History of Civil Rights, 1934-1964 (March 10, 2009). Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, Vol. 40, p. 385, 2009; Saint Louis U. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-01. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1356943

Anders Walker (Contact Author)

Saint Louis University - School of Law ( email )

100 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63101
United States

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