Over the past fifty years, Charles L. Black, Jr., has been a powerful voice for the human rights of all. He has been called "a spectacular advocate, but also a towering scholar of constitutional law" (Jack Greenberg, former counsel-general, NAACP Legal Defense Fund). He has changed the way we think about fundamental questions in American law. Black presents a powerful case for reviewing and renewing the basis of our most important human rights. Arguing from the Declaration of Independence and the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, he leads readers to a deepened and clarified understanding of what our forbears provided us with, what the Civil War seemed to guarantee us, and how we have lost sight of this great foundation of rights. Following Black's thoughts, we can reclaim the moral center of justice on which our government is based and by which our very being as a nation is justified. A New Birth of Freedom points us in the right direction for beginning this task.
Constitutional scholar Black, an emeritus professor at Yale Law School, has long been known as a visionary. This study extends his quest to convince his fellow citizens that the language of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence contains the seeds of a far deeper commitment to human rights, especially provision of support to the poor. His densely argued essay focuses on the text of the Ninth Amendment, which recognizes rights not named, and how the 14th Amendment, which establishes citizens' rights to due process, must apply to the states, that the states must adhere to national standards. Black acknowledges that human-rights law historically consists of limits on government, rather than affirmative responsibility; however, he notes that Congress has affirmative duties to pay for the census as well as other tasks. Thus, extrapolating from the Declaration's commitment to "the right to the pursuit of happiness," Black argues that Congress has the duty "to ensure, humanly speaking, a decent livelihood for all." He is aware that his views stand little chance of acceptance in the current political climate; yet his provocative arguments should nag at the conscience of students of law and history. (June)