Crusaders in the Courts

In 1949, at the age of twenty-four, the author of CRUSADERS IN THE COURTS, a white, Jewish recent law school graduate joined the four black attorneys who made up the legal staff of the Legal Defense Fund created ten years earlier by the NAACP. Almost immediately, Jack Greenberg was plunged into a maelstrom of trial activity spawned by the ambitious plans for social reform envisioned by the fund’s then director, Thurgood Marshall. Marshall’s strategy rejected a direct assault on segregation in favor of a case-by-case approach to overturning centuries of racial bias and more than fifty years of legalized discrimination. BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION (1954), in which Greenberg played an active role, was not the first important civil rights case handled by NAACP lawyers, but it is arguably the most significant. As Greenberg states, the Brown decision did not just decree school desegregation, it transformed the way American society and the law perceived and treated blacks.

In 1961, Greenberg succeeded his mentor Marshall as Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Greenberg remained with the fund for the next twenty-three years, overseeing its continuous increase in power and influence and charting new directions for the struggle for civil rights into such arenas as public accommodations, employment and voting. CRUSADERS IN THE COURTS is both a history of this dynamic organization and a memoir of Greenberg’s remarkable career as a civil rights activist.