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Race, Labor, and Civil Rights

Griggs versus Duke Power and the Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity

Robert Samuel Smith

Publication Year: 2008

In 1966, thirteen black employees of the Duke Power Company's Dan River Plant in Draper, North Carolina, filed a lawsuit against the company challenging its requirement of a high school diploma or a passing grade on an intelligence test for internal transfer or promotion. In the groundbreaking decision Griggs v. Duke Power (1971), the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding such employment practices violated Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when they disparately affected minorities. In doing so, the court delivered a significant anti-employment discrimination verdict. Legal scholars rank Griggs v. Duke Power on par with Brown v. Board of Education (1954) in terms of its impact on eradicating race discrimination from American institutions. In Race, Labor, and Civil Rights, Robert Samuel Smith offers the first full-length historical examination of this important case and its connection to civil rights activism during the second half of the 1960s. Smith explores all aspects of Griggs, highlighting the sustained energy of the grassroots civil rights community and the critical importance of courtroom activism. Smith shows that after years of nonviolent, direct action protests, African Americans remained vigilant in the 1960s, heading back to the courts to reinvigorate the civil rights acts in an effort to remove the lingering institutional bias left from decades of overt racism. He asserts that alongside the more boisterous expressions of black radicalism of the late sixties, foot soldiers and local leaders of the civil rights community—many of whom were working-class black southerners—mustered ongoing legal efforts to mold Title 7 into meaningful law. Smith also highlights the persistent judicial activism of the NAACP-Legal Defense and Education Fund and the ascension of the second generation of civil rights attorneys. By exploring the virtually untold story of Griggs v. Duke Power, Smith's enlightening study connects the case and the campaign for equal employment opportunity to the broader civil rights movement and reveals the civil rights community's continued spirit of legal activism well into the 1970s.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

Throughout the 1990s, amid the swirling discourse regarding affirmative action, I was a regular audience member at the guest-lecturer-of-the-month talk on the . . .

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Introduction

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pp. 1-7

At the seventy-fifth annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Judge Damon Keith of the Sixth Circuit Court . . .

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I: Race, Labor, and Civil Rights

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pp. 8-33

Title 7’s journey toward becoming law, and its maturation through the courts during the latter stages of the civil rights movement, was an important development in . . .

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II: The Only Thing You Had Was The Labor : A Sharecropper’s Journey through Rural North Carolina

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pp. 34-59

Title 7’s journey toward becoming law, and its maturation through the courts during the latter stages of the civil rights movement, was an important development in . . .

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III: So We Just Started Pushing: Civil Rights in North Carolina

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pp. 60-90

Civil rights activism in North Carolina serves as a microcosm of national civil rights struggles. As opposition to state-mandated segregation swelled, African Americans, . . .

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IV: Phase Two; Namely, Economic Freedom: The Title 7 Campaign

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pp. 91-115

In his history of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, former LDF director counsel Jack Greenberg writes, “Before lawyers can win cases there have . . .

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V: Subtleties of Conduct . . . Play No Small Part: Griggs at the District Court

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pp. 116-143

As late as 1968, when Griggs began its legal journey at the Greensboro district court, the occupational status of African Americans in southern industry had not improved . . .

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VI: Faithful to Congressional Intent : Griggs on Appeal

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pp. 144-175

By the time the Judge Gordon had handed down his opinion, Robert Jumper, Jesse Martin, and Herman Martin, all high school graduates, had been promoted. Boyd, . . .

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VII: This Thing Isn’t All That Real

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pp. 176-190

The Legal Defense Fund won the case it needed to transform Title 7 into a potent tool for breaking down white employment supremacy. In subsequent decades, . . .

Notes

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pp. 191-214

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 215-227

Index

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pp. 229-234


E-ISBN-13: 9780807134818
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807133637

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Making the Modern South