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The Pig Farmer’s Daughter and Other Tales of American Justice: Episodes of Racism and Sexism in the Courts from 1865 to Present

Aiming to show just how unblind justice has been and continues to be in America, Berry (Black Resistance/White Law, etc.) examines civil and criminal court cases “that deal with the intersection of race, class, and gender.” A former assistant secretary of education (under Jimmy Carter) and appointed in 1993 by Congress to chair the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Berry is no legal radical. Still, she issues an unapologetic call to arms: “only to the extent we mount and sustain reform movements can we change the law.” Turning to the past, she shows how 19th-century law drew on “scientific racism… to reinforce racism and gender bias.” In rape cases, writes Berry, “race, gender, and class affected courts’ understanding of the status of rape victims and the accused and affected their decisions.” Berry points to America’s legacy of race lynching, arguing that black men were lynched not because they had raped white women but because they “challenged white male privilege.” The title refers to a case in which a German immigrant farmer’s daughter unsuccessfully accused of rape a mulatto supported by well-to-do white patronsAa case Berry archly compares to the outcome of the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas debacle (which, she writes, “was not about two African Americans [but] really about the white male privilege to devalue her, and to elevate him”). With clarity and leavening flashes of wit, Berry revealingly reviews bias in the court and the rationalizations employed to uphold it.