Colorblind Injustice

Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction

By J. Morgan Kousser

608 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 tables, 17 figs., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4738-1
    Published: January 1999
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6265-0
    Published: November 2000

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Awards & distinctions

1999 Lillian Smith Book Award, Southern Regional Council

2000 Ralph J. Bunche Award, American Political Science Association

Challenging recent trends both in historical scholarship and in Supreme Court decisions on civil rights, J. Morgan Kousser criticizes the Court's "postmodern equal protection" and demonstrates that legislative and judicial history still matter for public policy.

Offering an original interpretation of the failure of the First Reconstruction (after the Civil War) by comparing it with the relative success of the Second (after World War II), Kousser argues that institutions and institutional rules--not customs, ideas, attitudes, culture, or individual behavior--have been the primary forces shaping American race relations throughout the country's history. Using detailed case studies of redistricting decisions and the tailoring of electoral laws from Los Angeles to the Deep South, he documents how such rules were designed to discriminate against African Americans and Latinos.

Kousser contends that far from being colorblind, Shaw v. Reno (1993) and subsequent "racial gerrymandering" decisions of the Supreme Court are intensely color-conscious. Far from being conservative, he argues, the five majority justices and their academic supporters are unreconstructed radicals who twist history and ignore current realities. A more balanced view of that history, he insists, dictates a reversal of Shaw and a return to the promise of both Reconstructions.

About the Author

J. Morgan Kousser is professor of history and social science at the California Institute of Technology and author of The Shaping of Southern Politics: Suffrage Restriction and the Establishment of the One-Party South, 1880-1910. He has served as an expert witness in nineteen federal voting rights cases.
For more information about J. Morgan Kousser, visit the Author Page.


"Engaging, provocative, and insightful."--Michigan Law Review

"Kousser has written a very important book about a crucial public issue and made a powerful case for the significance and reliability of history in the public sphere. . . . Historians, lawyers, legislators, and activists will have to read his work with close and respectful attention."--North Carolina Historical Review

"[A] thoroughly researched and well-argued book. . . . This is a book that is valuable for attorneys, judges, policymakers, and academics in helping to understand the nation’s tortuous path toward racial justice."--Law and History Review

"There is much to like about this book. . . . Kousser skillfully develops the data to underscore his argument. Readers will not find the history of voting rights and gerrymandering told any more effectively, and there is great stuff in here for classroom use. . . . This is a fine book for many reasons, not the least because it addresses political issues that have fundamentally abridged the democratic process in this country. One should not ignore this important history, nor can one ignore Kousser's challenge to our profession."--Journal of American History

"Kousser presents his case, and his case studies, persuasively. Like any good historian, he is attentive to nuance and complexity, and when he concludes that the evidence lies conclusively on one side, his judgment carries real weight."--American Historical Review

"A thoroughly researched, exhaustively documented, and, ultimately, very convincing indictment of the role of the Supreme Court in the battle over equal voting rights. . . . [Kousser’s] cogent analysis of constitutional law and voting rights policy speaks to a number of disciplines."--Law and Politics Review