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Join us on Zoom for a series of discussions based on the 3 sections of the book The Great Dissenter: the Story of John Marshall Harlan, America's Judicial Hero by Peter S. Canellos.
John Marshall Harlan was an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1877 until his death in 1911, a period spanning the abandonment of Civil War Reconstruction through the Gilded Age. He is called "The Great Dissenter" as he was often the single (and quite vocal) dissenter in the significant civil rights, antitrust, and labor cases of his era. Over time his views prevailed, as later justices ended segregation and supported other civil rights and economic freedoms, often quoting his dissents. Many scholars now consider him to be one of the greatest Supreme Court justices.
From the book's dust jacket:
"Our Constitution is color blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens," he wrote in his famous dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, one of many cases in which he lambasted his colleagues for denying the rights of African Americans. When the court struck down antitrust laws, Harlan called out the majority for favoring its own economic class. He did the same when the justices robbed states of their power to regulate the hours of workers and shielded the rich from the income tax. When other justices said the court was powerless to prevent racial violence, he took matters into his own hands; he made sure the Chattanooga officials who enabled a shocking lynching on a bridge over the Tennessee River were brought to justice.