Two conversations with my mom 40 years apart show challenges ahead

Abolitionists, suffragists, de-segregationists, LGBTQ people, labor unions, public health advocates — all have used government as a way of expanding opportunity.



June 16, 2022 - 4:21 PM

Protesters march at a pro-choice rally in downtown San Diego on May 14, 2022, in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft decision that Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

In my basement is a dusty set of 1969 World Book encyclopedias. I’ve kept them as a tribute to that long-ago sales rep who came to our rural home in western Kansas and convinced my parents they would be a good investment in their son’s education. In an age when the internet didn’t exist and a place where two TV channels could be obtained on a clear day, reading encyclopedias was one way for a bored child to pass the time. That started my path, albeit with twists and turns, into becoming a historian and professor.

Recently, those encyclopedias gave me reason to recall two days, one of them in 1973, when I found my mother intently focused on a page in Book “S.” Looking over her shoulder at the pictures of the nine men in black robes, I asked who they were.

“The Supreme Court,” she said, “and they should all be shot.”

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