A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. (February 25, 1928 – December 14, 1998), was born in Ewing Township, NJ. He grew up during the Great Depression and the era of Jim Crow laws. He overcame a childhood marked by economic hardship and segregation, and after graduating from Antioch College he attended Yale Law School where he graduated with honors.
He sought an education and career in law where he fought institutionalized racism in the American judicial system. He began his career as a law clerk to Justice Curtis Bok of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and soon became the youngest and first African American District Attorney in the City of Philadelphia. In 1954 he became a founding partner of the first African American law firm in Philadelphia, Norris, Schmidt, Green Harris, & Higginbotham.
In 1962 President Kennedy appointed Higginbot ham to the Federal Trade Commission making him the youngest and first African American to ever serve on a federal regulatory commission. Soon thereafter, President Lyndon Johnson nominated him as a federal judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania where he became one of the youngest people ever appointed to a federal bench at the age of 35. Leon served as a mentor to numerous young attorneys, affording them the opportunity to gain critical exposure to the legal profession.
Leon played an extraordinary role in the civil rights movement as an advisor to President Johnson after the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and as a member of the National Commission on Causes and Prevention of Violence. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit where he remained for 16 years, serving as Chief Judge from 1989 until 1991 and as Senior Judge until his retirement in 1993.
Upon retirement, Leon became the Public Service Jurisprudence Professor at Harvard University and served as a consultant to Nelson Mandela on the formation of the Constitution of South Africa and as an advocate for grass roots democracy education. He continued his commitment to public service when appointed by President Clinton to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.
As a historian, he contributed to more than 100 publications and academic works and produced several critically acclaimed works including In the Matter of Color: The Colonial Period (1978) and Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and P resumptions in the American Legal Process (1996). During his retirement he delivered over 100 speech es annually to motivate the next generation of people in the United States to continue the fight fo r racial justice. He is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other honors and awards including honorary degrees from more than 60 universities. Higginbotham transitioned on December 14, 1998, in Boston, MA as a result of a stroke. (Biography Source)
the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process: The Colonial
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Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 29, 1980)
Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.3 x 7.9 inches
In this midst of heated, often poisonous, arguments about affirmative action, school busing, and race-based political redistricting, A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. provides a welcome voice of reason. The sequel to his acclaimed In the Matter of Color, published in 1978, Shades of Freedom is a history of American racial law from the 17th century to the present. This long and often dark chronology is examined with precision, providing Higginbotham ample space to air his own view, that America has come far but still has far to go. Higginbotham, the former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court Appeals for the Third Circuit and the winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is unabashedly liberal, especially in wholeheartedly supporting the concept of political districts designed to create black majorities. His analyses, particularly of major decisions such as the 1857 Dred Scott case, are compelling and elegant. And his indignation is palpable
of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process
Race and the American Legal Process
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Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1St Edition edition (October 24, 1996)
Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.3 x 9.3 inches
Few individuals have had as great an impact on the law--both its practice and its history--as A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. A winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, he has distinguished himself over the decades both as a professor at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard, and as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals. But Judge Higginbotham is perhaps best known as an authority on racism in America: not the least important achievement of his long career has been In the Matter of Color, the first volume in a monumental history of race and the American legal process. Published in 1978, this brilliant book has been hailed as the definitive account of racism, slavery, and the law in colonial America.
Now, after twenty years, comes the long-awaited sequel. In Shades of Freedom, Higginbotham provides a magisterial account of the interaction between the law and racial oppression in America from colonial times to the present, demonstrating how the one agent that should have guaranteed equal treatment before the law--the judicial system--instead played a dominant role in enforcing the inferior position of blacks. The issue of racial inferiority is central to this volume, as Higginbotham documents how early white perceptions of black inferiority slowly became codified into law. Perhaps the most powerful and insightful writing centers on a pair of famous Supreme Court cases, which Higginbotham uses to portray race relations at two vital moments in our history. The Dred Scott decision of 1857 declared that a slave who had escaped to free territory must be returned to his slave owner. Chief Justice Roger Taney, in his notorious opinion for the majority, stated that blacks were "so inferior that they had no right which the white man was bound to respect." For Higginbotham, Taney's decision reflects the extreme state that race relations had reached just before the Civil War. And after the War and Reconstruction, Higginbotham reveals, the Courts showed a pervasive reluctance (if not hostility) toward the goal of full and equal justice for African Americans, and this was particularly true of the Supreme Court. And in the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which Higginbotham terms "one of the most catastrophic racial decisions ever rendered," the Court held that full equality--in schooling or housing, for instance--was unnecessary as long as there were "separate but equal" facilities. Higginbotham also documents the eloquent voices that opposed the openly racist workings of the judicial system, from Reconstruction Congressman John R. Lynch to Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan to W. E. B. Du Bois, and he shows that, ironically, it was the conservative Supreme Court of the 1930s that began the attack on school segregation, and overturned the convictions of African Americans in the famous Scottsboro case. But today racial bias still dominates the nation, Higginbotham concludes, as he shows how in six recent court cases the public perception of black inferiority continues to persist.
In Shades of Freedom, a noted scholar and celebrated jurist offers a work of magnificent scope, insight, and passion. Ranging from the earliest colonial times to the present, it is a superb work of history--and a mirror to the American soul.