Promises to Keep: African Americans and the Constitutional Order, 1776 to the Present (2nd edition)

ISBN : 9780190071639

Donald G. Nieman
368 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Apr 2020
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Widely considered the first history of US Constitutionalism that places African Americans at the center, Promises to Keep is a compelling overview of how conflict over African Americans' place in American society has shaped the Constitution, law, and our understanding of citizenship and rights. Both authoritative and accessible, this revised and expanded second edition incorporates key insights from the last three decades of scholarship and makes sense of recent developments in civil rights, from the War on Drugs to the rise of Black Lives Matter. Promises to Keep shows how African Americans have played a critical role in transforming the Constitution from a bulwark of slavery to a document that is truer to the nation's promise of equality. The book begins by examining debates about race from the Revolutionary Era at the Constitutional Convention and covers the establishment of civil rights protections during Reconstruction, the Jim Crow backlash, and the evolution of the civil rights movement, from the formation of the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People to legal victories and massive organized protests. Comprehensive in scope, this book moves from debates over slavery at the nation's founding to contemporary discussions of affirmative action, voting rights, mass incarceration, and police brutality. In the process, it provides readers with a historical perspective critical to understanding some of today's most important social and political issues.




1 With Liberty for Some: The Old Constitution and African American Rights

2 Law and Liberty, 1830-1860

3 The National Commitment to Civil Equality, 1861-1870

4 Equality Deferred, 1870-1900

5 The Age of Segregation, 1900-1950

6 The Civil Rights Movement and American Law, 1950-1969

7 The Elusive Quest for Equality, 1969-1989

8 The Color-Blind Challenge to Civil Rights, 1989-Present


Bibliographical Essay

Table of Cases


About the author: 

Donald G. Nieman is Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Binghamton University, State University of New York. He is the author or editor of six books, including the first edition of Promises to Keep (Oxford).

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