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July 24, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

CIVIL RIGHTS DECISIONS OF THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: The 19th Century (239 pp.) and The 20th Century (273 pp.) edited by Maureen Harrison & Steve Gilbert (Excellent Books, P . O . Box 927105, San Diego , Calif. 92192-7105: $16.95 each, paperback original). By removing the arcane legal terminology from the texts, Harrison and Gilbert enable the average reader to study how the Supreme Court shifted from a narrow definition of civil rights to a broad one over the last 160 years. The infamous Dred Scott decision of 1857, which confirmed the status of slaves as property, reflects the 19th Century attitude toward human rights, while Chief Justice Earl Warren's historic opinion in Brown vs. Board of Education, "Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," epitomizes the liberal views of the later 20th Century. These important rulings continue to influence hotly debated issues. The early arguments over whether African- and Asian-Americans qualified as citizens entitled to the full protection of the law may affect upcoming decisions on the rights of illegal immigrants. The Court may reject recent anti-gay rights initiatives by citing Chief Justice Frederick Vinson's declaration in the 1948 case of Shelley vs. Kraemer, "The Constitution confers upon no individual the right to demand action by the State, which results in the denial of equal protection of the laws to other individuals."

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