Michael Meltsner
The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer


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Praise for The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer

"Near the epicenter of the battle to eliminate legal segregation, and placed on a fascinating professional trajectory," Meltsner presents a thoughtful, wide-ranging, historically rich account of how that experience shaped him." - Boston Globe

"Meltsner's memoir of his professional life as a lawyer with the Legal Defense Fund is a layered treat. One part is a glimpse back into a time when civil rights had some progressive clout and where a cause lawyer could experience the teary, breathtaking, yearning, better-take-a-deep-breath feeling that comes from being there when people make the move of their lives and you identify with it, maybe even helped them make it'. A second part is a confirmation, clarification and sometime challenge to many of our central theories about cause lawyering on behalf of progressive social movements and the power that courts had and still have to remake our political worlds. A third part that I will leave to the delighted reader to explore personally, is the compelling literary engagement with a fascinating lawyer, and his professional, strategic and personal interactions with his teachers,clients and colleagues." - Law and Politics Review

"Michael Meltsner doesn't write from the sidelines about major changes in our culture.   He has been there for much of it, helping to forge law that protects the rights of people,  from the everday to the famous.  Young lawyers and those who want to enter the field should read this to know what passion and commitment is  about." - Jordan Rich, WBZ Boston

"In 1967, when Paul McCartney asked if he would still be needed at age 64, the question seemed perfectly reasonable. In the intervening years, some members of the generation that never trusted anyone over 30 recognized that time does indeed bring change and perspective. The best, like Michael Meltsner in his engaging new book The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer, have actually embraced the opportunity to reflect upon and reappraise the tumultuous events of which they were a part. In Meltsner's book we are the beneficiaries of his openness; he moves us seamlessly through civil rights issues from the 1950s to the present, blending personal observations with cogent analysis..." - Daniel Greenberg, American Lawyer Vol. 28, July 1, 2006

"Michael Meltsner has performed a great public service by recalling from his perspective as a lawyer at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund how lawyers helped bring about social change during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. This memoir will be of great interest to a generation unfamiliar with that remarkable time in American history, as well as to those familiar with the people and controversies he recalls." -Stephen B. Bright, Director, Southern Center for Human Rights

"Anyone interested in the study of law will be interested in this book, but particularly those who are curious about the development of civil rights law, the state of the death penalty, and the behind-the-scenes story of how race and class interact with education will not want to miss Michael Meltsner's marvelous, nuanced, psychologically penetrating, entertaining, and legally sophisticated account of his experience as a civil rights lawyer, litigator, teacher, and citizen." -Victor Navasky, Publisher Emeritus of the Nation and Delacorte Professor of Magazine Journalism at Columbia University

"I once told Michael Meltsner that the story of his life—the first half devoted to the struggle for civil rights, the second half spent watching in horror as many of those legal victories were overturned—would make a great, tragic novel. Unfortunately for me, Michael is a novelist, too, and told me he wanted to write it himself. The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer is that book. Not a novel, as it turned out, but peopled with the heroes and villains of that dramatic period in American history."-Jeffrey Eugenides, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Middlesex.

Michael Meltsner releases later this month, The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer. The book provides the personal history of the civil rights movement from the perspective of an attorney committed to social change. The book lays out those heady days when the "God squad" at NAACP Legal Defense Fund helped bring about social change during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Meltsner is also the author of Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment, the authoritative history of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's death penalty campaign. Prof. Meltsner was also my constitutional litigation professor and taught me how to think less like a student and more like an impact litigator. I have a funny feeling The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer will share a little bit of that wisdom. - from Capital Defense Weekly

See also deathpenaltyinfo.org.

Four recent reviews are now available:
57 Journal of Legal Education 149 by Steven R. Shapiro (Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union)

73 Journal of Southern History 741 by Tony A. Freyer (Professor of History and Law, University of Alabama)

By Lawrence M Friedman, Assistant Professor of Law, New England School of Law
in Volume 41 of the New England Law Review 287 (2007)

By James Ralph Jr., William H Rehnquist Professor of American History and Culture, Middlebury College
In Volume 31 of the Vermont Law Review (2007)
www.vermontlawreview.com/fulltext/31vtlrev907.pdf (PDF)


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