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Copyright (c) 2001 George Mason Law Review
George Mason Law Review

BOOK REVIEW: REVIEW OF ONLY ONE PLACE OF REDRESS BY DAVID E. BERNSTEIN

Only One Place of Redress: African Americans, Labor Regulations, and the Courts From Reconstruction to the New Deal, David E. Bernstein, Durham & London: Duke University Press (2001)

Winter, 2001

10 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 293

Author

Reviewed by David T. Beito *

Excerpt



This is a wonderful book. If historians are willing to listen, Only One Place of Redress can transform their understanding of the black experience in America since the Civil War. At the very least, it should force scholars to confront long held, but rarely examined, assumptions about the role of government, the market, and the courts. Though not trained as a professional historian, David E. Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University, demonstrates a good command of the relevant historiography. More importantly, he proves more than equal to the task of evaluating, in clear and concise prose, the strengths and weaknesses of this scholarship.

For decades, historians have been unforgiving when discussing judicial activism during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 1 Their most common charge is that courts manipulated precedent through misuse of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to bolster the interests of capital. 2 These historians argue that the courts, by doing this, left workers and the middle class at the mercy of an exploitative market. They particularly castigate the Supreme Court's 1905 ruling in Lochner v. New York 3 striking down a law limiting the working hours of bakers. 4

Bernstein paints a much brighter picture of Lochnerian jurisprudence. He contends that many ordinary people, including racial and ethnic minorities, found it to be their only defense against legislation that limited their ability to better themselves in the market. As politicians in the North abandoned them, and Southern politicians waged war ...
 
 
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