University of Wisconsin–Madison

Book Review - 100 Americans Making Constitutional History : a Biographical History

100 Americans Making Constitutional History : a Biographical History / Melvin I. Urofsky, editor.  Washington, D.C. : CQ Press, c2004.  295 p.  Call number: Reference Collection KF4549/O54/2004.

Imagine an issue so close to your heart or a grievance so outrageous that something had to be done to make it right.  100 Americans Making Constitutional History chronicles such important and epic moments in our nation’s history advancing the cause of justice for all of us.

Each of the one hundred profiles are rather short, at roughly 2000 words apiece, they all share a common purpose in putting a human face on the historic struggles which gave rise to some of the Supreme Court’s most important and influential decisions.  As the book’s subtitle suggests, these are biographical sketches of the people involved portraying the personal, social, and political circumstances surrounding their cases.

Every walk of life in American society is represented in these stories.  Some are heroes we hold in high esteem today.  Others are villains who either had their rights vindicated because of the abusive justice served them or were found guilty as charged and the punishment for their crimes upheld.  Some of the individuals you’ll find profiled:

  • Richard Nixon – United States v. Nixon (1974)
  • Clarence Norris (Scottsboro Boys) – Powell v. Alabama (1932) and Norris v. Alabama (1935)
  • Larry Flynt – Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell (1988)
  • Elmer Gertz – Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (1974)
  • Demetrio Rodriguez – Rodriguez v. San Antonio Independent School District (1973)
  • Curt Flood – Flood v. Kuhn (1972)
  • Estelle Griswold – Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
  • Linda Brown – Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
  • Gordon Hirabayashi – Hirabayashi v. United States (1943)
  • Eugene Debs – Debs v. United States (1919)
  • William Marbury – Marbury v. Madison (1803)

Like any good reference tool, this collection is highly informative, the concise historical accounts with their attending bibliographies serve as a solid stepping-stone for further research.  No less fascinating is that the stories of the people chronicled have become our story, one so telling of our shared Constitutional legacy as a people and a nation.

Submitted by Eric Taylor on May 5, 2009

This article appears in the categories: Law Library

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