Enforcing Civil Rights
Race Discrimination and the Department of Justice
Brian K. Landsberg
The 1964 Civil Rights Act confirmed the central role of the Department of Justice in the national battle against racial discrimination. Congress had established the department's Civil Rights Division in 1957 with a staff of a dozen to combat racial discrimination in voting; its current staff of 500 now prosecutes many forms of discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other areas.
In Enforcing Civil Rights, a former member of the CRD focuses on the role of that agency in combating the racial caste system in America. Brian Landsberg's overview of civil rights enforcement reveals the political realities and national priorities that shaped it; the moral, practical, and political forces that have influenced it; and the roles of the federal government, executive branch, and Attorney General in implementing it.
“A readable, informative, and interesting account of the history and organization of US civil rights laws and their enforcement in the Civil Rights Division.”
“An essential starting point for anyone who wishes to think seriously about the state of our national commitment to racial justice, and about the means best suited for enforcing that commitment.”
—Human RightsSee all reviews...
“A nuanced account of the complex issues found in civil rights enforcement.”
—American Journal of Legal History
“Provides a well-documented, east-to-read account of the development, progress, and flaws of the CRD in the Department of Justice.”
—Perspectives on Political Science
“Landsberg does not shy away from pointing out instances when judgment and policy failed, but he brings a scholarly objectivity to the task of examining how effective policies and priorities were developed, and in identifying those operational and legal approaches which were most effective in accomplishing goals at various times in the division’s history.”
—Law and Politics Book Review
“[Landsberg] does a fine job of explaining the considerations and processes that enter into the setting and implementation of civil rights enforcement priorities and litigation policies.”
—Georgia Historical Quarterly
“Landsberg combines an insider’s first-hand knowledge with an academic’s impartiality to give readers a close-up view of the Civil Rights Division’s development.”
“Every student of the federal civil rights laws will profit from reading this insightful overview of the development of federal enforcement of civil rights in the Justice Department.”
—Mark Tushnet, author of Making Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1936–1961
“Landsberg’s reflections and suggested reforms deserve serious attention from all who are concerned with civil rights, law, and politics.”
—David M. O'Brien, author of Storm Center: The Supreme Court in American Politics
“An invaluable and long-overdue window into the workings of the federal civil rights enforcement structure. An indispensable work.”
—Drew S. Days, III, Alfred M. Rankin Professor of Law, Yale Law School
“The most valuable contribution yet to evaluating the operations of the Department of Justice. A scholarly masterpiece.”
—Robert J. Reinstein, Dean, Temple University School of Law
“Comprehensive and readable, this is a major contribution to the literature on civil rights enforcement in America.”
—Howard Ball, author of Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel WarriorSee fewer reviews...
Drawing on case law, legislative histories, Justice Department archives, and his own years of service, Landsberg provides a reflective insider's view of how the CRD has enforced civil rights. He tells how Congress broadened its mandate—from authority to sue state and local governments to jurisdiction over individuals and companies—and how the CRD weathered Washington's shifting political winds. He also conveys the challenges that came with the responsibility of enforcing legislation for an entire nation and describes the roles of law, politics, and historical forces in the CRD's setting of priorities and litigation policy.
In addition, Landsberg addresses conflicts between career civil servants and political appointees, studies the consequences of its litigation positions, and considers whether the structure of enforcement should be changed. He offers some sensible recommendations for rationalizing and strengthening the federal civil rights enforcement structure.
The CRD has done much to eliminate America's racial caste system, but Landsberg cautions that we must take care to ensure that it does not become a tool of narrow interests. His book provides the understanding we need to safeguard against that risk, while offering a new perspective on the civil rights movement in America.