'The Dean of Chicago's Black Lawyers': Earl Dickerson and Civil Rights Lawyering in the Years Before Brown
34 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2006 Last revised: 17 Feb 2011
Date Written: 2007
This book review engages recent scholarship on the nature of civil-rights lawyering in the African-American bar in the generation before Brown v. Board of Education. Using the recent biography of Earl Burrus Dickerson, one of the leaders of the African-American bar before World War II, as its vehicle, the review finds support for the emerging thesis that, in the years before Brown, the African-American civil-rights bar was not focused on ending de jure segregation in public institutions, but rather on building up African-American institutions. Contrary to recent scholarship, however, the review suggests that Dickerson personally preferred a more integrationist strategy, and his efforts to build up African-American institutions was less a conscious strategy than an adaptation to the limitations on his ability to practice law as he wished. Freedom of action, rather than racial equality, was Dickerson's great motivator.
Keywords: Civil Rights,U.S. Legal History,Class Actions
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