History isn’t always written by the victors. 19th century America saw a series of high-profile court cases that stripped civil rights from Black Americans following the Civil War. John Marshall Harlan was the only U.S. Supreme Court justice to stand in dissent, and his blistering, passionate rebuttals inspired future justices, such as Thurgood Marshall, who said that Harlan’s writings were his “Bible” and his blueprint as he helped to tear down Segregation a century later.
Peter Canellos, award-winning author and managing editor at POLITICO, has written a riveting new biography of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan. THE GREAT DISSENTER is the inspiring and cinematic story of Harlan’s life; describing how a Kentucky-born lawyer who fought for the Union in the Civil War progressed to the highest court in the land, and how his lifelong allyship with the Black community stemmed from a childhood being educated side-by-side with his half-brother, Robert Harlan, a formerly enslaved man who Harlan’s father fully embraced as family. Robert himself became a commanding figure in American history: a Gold Rush millionaire, a horse-racing entrepreneur who took on the bluebloods of Britain, and a pillar of political power in the Black community.
Peter S. Canellos is an award-winning writer and former Editorial Page Editor of The Boston Globe and Executive Editor of Politico. He is the editor of the New York Times bestseller, Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy.