By Andrew E. Kersten
(Hill and Wang, Hardcover, 9780809094868, 320pp.)
Publication Date: April 26, 2011
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Clarence Darrow is best remembered for his individual cases, whether defending the thrill killers Leopold and Loeb or John Scopes’s right to teach evolution in the classroom. In the first full-length biography of Darrow in decades, the historian Andrew E. Kersten narrates the complete life of America’s most legendary lawyer and the struggle that defined it, the fight for the American traditions of individualism, freedom, and liberty in the face of the country’s inexorable march toward modernity. Prior biographers have all sought to shoehorn Darrow, born in 1857, into a single political party or cause. But his politics do not define his career or enduring importance. Going well beyond the familiar story of the socially conscious lawyer and drawing upon new archival records, Kersten shows Darrow as early modernity’s greatest iconoclast. What defined Darrow was his response to the rising interference by corporations and government in ordinary working Americans’ lives: he zealously dedicated himself to smashing the structures and systems of social control everywhere he went. During a period of enormous transformations encompassing the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era, Darrow fought fiercely to preserve individual choice as an ever more corporate America sought to restrict it.
Andrew E. Kersten is the Frankenthal Professor of History in the Department of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. He received his PhD in American history from the University of Cincinnati in 1997. He is the author of Race, Jobs, and the War: The FEPC in the Midwest, Politics and Progress: The American State and Society since the Civil War, A. Philip Randolph: A Life in the Vanguard, and Labor’s Home Front: The American Federation of Labor during the Second World War. He has also written about Wisconsin history and the history of the city of Green Bay.