“The Negro has been the only American who has constantly made an issue of democracy,” wrote Philip Berrigan, S. J. last year. That he did not overstate his case by very much was shown by the Court’s decision obliterating the last vestiges of the poll tax. This antidemocratic barrier, whatever its original motivation, had been color blind. But the ruling that will benefit poor whites of the tidewater and the hill country was won by Negro plaintiffs; its outcome is the fruit of decades of struggle initiated by Negroes and supported by whites interested in interracial justice.
Judge Loren Miller’s The Petitioners was published on the eve of the final poll tax decision. It is a work that has long been needed. One cannot really understand the last dozen years’ decisions without an appreciation of their place in the segment of “Negro History” that has unfolded at the bar of the Court. Historians say the Dred Scott decision’s principal...
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