Southern states were thrown into a moral tailspin following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education which declared that the doctrine known as “separate but equal” had no place in public education. Segregationists like George Wallace, the governor of Alabama, were defiant, lawyers throughout the South refused to defend the rights of African Americans, and the bar was nearly universally silent in responding to widespread disregard of the Supreme Court’s decision.
On June 21, 1963, President John F. Kennedy, accompanied by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, met with 244 American lawyers in the East Room of the White House to ask them to help take the civil rights battles that had ensued post-Brown from the “streets to the courts.”
This meeting resulted in the establishment of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, originally led by Bernard G. Segal, Harrison Tweed, and Jerome Shestack, prominent lawyers dedicated to the rule of law and pro bono service by the private bar in the promotion of racial justice. Chronicled in the pages of this book is the fifty-year story of the evolution of this organization into one of the world’s largest civil and human rights pro bono leadership formations that has powerfully transformed our nation and other countries by fighting against racial injustice.