"Representing the Race" tells the story of an enduring paradox
of American race relations, through the prism of a collective
biography of African American lawyers who worked in the era of
segregation. Practicing the law and seeking justice for diverse
clients, they confronted a tension between their racial identity as
black men and women and their professional identity as lawyers.
Both blacks and whites demanded that these attorneys stand apart
from their racial community as members of the legal fraternity.
Yet, at the same time, they were expected to be "authentic"-that
is, in sympathy with the black masses. This conundrum, as Kenneth
W. Mack shows, continues to reverberate through American politics
Mack reorients what we thought we knew about famous figures
such as Thurgood Marshall, who rose to prominence by convincing
local blacks and prominent whites that he was-as nearly as
possible-one of them. But he also introduces a little-known cast of
characters to the American racial narrative. These include Loren
Miller, the biracial Los Angeles lawyer who, after learning in
college that he was black, became a Marxist critic of his fellow
black attorneys and ultimately a leading civil rights advocate; and
Pauli Murray, a black woman who seemed neither black nor white,
neither man nor woman, who helped invent sex discrimination as a
category of law. The stories of these lawyers pose the unsettling
question: what, ultimately, does it mean to "represent" a minority
group in the give-and-take of American law and politics?
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