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Law Touched Our Hearts
A Generation Remembers Brown v. Board of Education

Editor(s): Mildred Wigfall Robinson, Richard J. Bonnie

In February 1954, President Eisenhower invited Chief Justice Warren to dinner at the White House. Among the guests were well-known opponents of school desegregation. During that evening, Eisenhower commented to Warren that "law and force cannot change a man's heart." Three months later, however, the Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision in Brown, and the contributors to this book, like people across the country, were profoundly changed by it, even though many saw almost nothing change in their communities.

What Brown did was to elevate race from the country's dirty secret to its most urgent topic of conversation. This book stands alone in presenting, in one source, stories of black and white Americans, men and women, from all parts of the nation, who were public school students during the years immediately after Brown. All shared an epiphany. Some became aware of race and the burden of racial separation. Others dared to hope that the yoke of racial oppression would at last be lifted.

The editors surveyed 4750 law professors born between 1936 and 1954, received 1000 responses, and derived these forty essays from those willing to write personal accounts of their childhood experiences in the classroom and in their communities. Their moving stories of how Brown affected them say much about race relations then and now. They also provide a picture of how social change can shape the careers of an entire generation in one profession.

Contributors provide accounts from across the nation. Represented are
-de jure states, those segregated by law at the time of Brown, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia
-de facto states, those where segregation was illegal but a common practice, including California, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Biography of Editor(s)

Mildred Wigfall Robinson was in the fourth grade in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, when Brown v. Board was decided. She received her elementary and secondary education in the state's schools, which remained segregated, then graduated from Fisk University. She is Henry L. & Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation Professor, University of Virginia School of Law.
Richard J. Bonnie was in the eighth grade in Norfolk, Virginia, when the public schools were closed to resist the Supreme Court's decision in Brown. He is Harrison Foundation Professor of Medicine and Law, Hunton & Williams Research Professor, and Director, Institute of Law, Psychiatry & Public Policy at the University of Virginia.


  • Selected as an "Outstanding" University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.
    2010 AAUP Bibliography
  • These are deeply moving personal perspectives on the civil rights era, revealing in vivid detail how children across the nation lived out the dilemmas of race in their families, schools, and neighborhoods.
    --Kip Kosek, American Studies, George Washington University
  • ...everyone should read this fascinating anthology.
    --Kansas History