Race and Redistricting
The Shaw-Cromartie Cases
Sales Date: October 17, 2002
240 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in
- Published: October 2002
- Published: October 2002
- Published: July 2023
Through much of the 1990s, a newly hatched snake wreaked political havoc in the South.
When North Carolina gained a seat in Congress following the 1990 census, it sought to rectify a long-standing failure to represent African American voters by creating, under federal pressure, two “majority-minority” voting districts. One of these snaked along Interstate 85 for nearly two hundred miles—not much wider than the road itself in some places—and was ridiculed by many as one of the least compact legislative districts ever proposed.
From 1993 to 2001, three intertwined cases went before the Supreme Court that decided how far a state could go in establishing voting districts along racial lines. Noted Supreme Court biographer Tinsley Yarbrough examines these closely linked landmark cases to show how the Court addressed the constitutionality of redistricting within the volatile contexts of civil rights and partisan politics.
A suit was first filed by Duke University law professor Robinson Everett, a liberal who loathed discrimination but considered racially motivated redistricting a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. Yarbrough tells how Everett enlisted associates as plaintiffs and went on to win two Supreme Court victories in Shaw v. Reno (1993) and Shaw v. Hunt (1996)—both by 5-4 decisions. Following the creation of another “flawed” redistricting plan, he rounded up a new set of plaintiffs to take the battle back to the Supreme Court. But this time, in Easley v. Cromartie—on the swing vote of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor—the 5-4 vote went against him.
Yarbrough shows the significant impact these cases have had on election law and the fascinating interplay of law, politics, and human conflict that the dispute generated. Drawing heavily on court records and on interviews with attorneys on both sides of the litigation, he relates a complex and intriguing tale about these protracted struggles. His cogent and balanced analysis considers whether the state legislature was wrong in using race as a measure for establishing the new district, or whether it was simply engaging in the time-honored practice of gerrymandering to ensure political balance.
Race and Redistricting spotlights efforts to “racially engineer” voting districts in an effort to achieve fair representation. By examining one state’s efforts to confront such dilemmas, it helps readers better understand future disputes over race and politics, as well as the ongoing debates over our “color-blind” constitution.
"Of value to legal scholars and others interested in the interplay between law and those who litigate and interpret it."—Journal of Southern History
"An excellent account. Yarbrough’s book is a carefully researched and thought-provoking account of Shaw and its progeny. It deserves a wide reading among students of minority voting rights."—American Historical Review
"An excellent contribution to the ongoing debate over whether the Constitution can, or should, be colorblind."—Perspectives on Political Science
"This fascinating case study is richly detailed, particularly the Supreme Court oral arguments and interviews with key participants. Highly recommended."—Choice
"Like many of the titles in the Landmark Law Cases Series, Yarbrough’s book conveys a great deal of historical detail within a clear narrative framework. The end result is a book that not only will provide students with a good introduction to a complex area of constitutional litigation, but also will furnish scholars with new information about key actors. . . . Whatever readers think about the future of race conscious redistricting, they will all surely agree that Yarbrough has made a valuable contribution to the study of the topic."—Law and Politics Book Review
“An excellent case study that carefully critiques the workings of the Supreme Court and provides a warm, moving portrait of the protagonists in this contemporary political drama. Bravo!”—Howard Ball, author of The Bakke Case: Race, Education, and Affirmative Action
“Offers piercing tales of the dramatis personae in one of the most important areas of contemporary constitutional law.”—Mark E. Rush, coauthor of Fair and Effective Representation? Debating Electoral Reform and Minority Rights
“Adds fascinating detail about the well-known ‘racial gerrymandering’ cases in North Carolina.”—J. Morgan Kousser, author of Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction
“A lucid and balanced guide to the Supreme Court’s decisions in these cases.”—Mark V. Tushnet, author of Making Constitutional Law
1. Preclearance Politics
2. “Political Pornography”
3. Shaw I in the the Supreme Court
4. The 1994 Trial
5. The 1994 Trial—The Defense Responds
6. A Predominantly Racial Purpose
7. Forum Shopping
List of Relevant Cases