Dovey Johnson Roundtree (1914-2018): Background information when reading Mighty Justice

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Mighty Justice

My Life in Civil Rights

by Dovey Johnson Roundtree , Katie McCabe

Mighty Justice by Dovey Johnson Roundtree , Katie McCabe X
Mighty Justice by Dovey Johnson Roundtree , Katie McCabe
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback:
    Nov 2019, 304 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers
Buy This Book

About this Book

Dovey Johnson Roundtree (1914-2018)

This article relates to Mighty Justice

Print Review

Black and white photo of Dovey Johnson Roundtree standing on courthouse stepsDovey Mae Johnson Roundtree was an African American civil rights activist and attorney who secured one of the most significant victories against Jim Crow segregation, and broke the color barrier of the Women's Bar in Washington D.C. She also served in the Women's Auxiliary Corps during World War II and, in 1961, became one of a select few female ordained ministers in the African Methodist Episcopalian Church. Yet when she passed away at the age of 104 in 2018, her name was largely unknown. The re-release of her memoir (first published in 2009 under the title Justice Older Than the Law), now titled Mighty Justice and co-written with award-winning journalist Katie McCabe, seeks to rectify that lapse in the public consciousness.

Roundtree was born in 1914 in Charlotte, North Carolina. As a child, she lived with her mother, siblings and grandparents in a household constantly under threat of violence by the Ku Klux Klan. (The first husband of Roundtree's grandmother, Rachel Graham, was murdered by a Klansman, and Graham herself was badly injured in a second attack.) Encouraged by her formidable grandmother and her mentor Mary McLeod Bethune, Roundtree enrolled at Spelman College in 1934 with plans to become a doctor. After graduating in 1938, she taught school for four years before joining the Women's Auxiliary Corps in 1942. She recruited a number of other African American women for the Corps and successfully argued against segregation in the cafeteria of the army base where she was stationed.

From 1947-1950, Roundtree studied law at Howard University (where Thurgood Marshall was one of her professors). Upon graduating, she began practicing with a former classmate, Julius Winfield Robertson. In 1955, Roundtree and Robertson took on the case of Sarah Keys, an Auxiliary Corps member suing the Carolina Coach Company after she was forced to relinquish her seat on the bus to a white officer. They took the case to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and argued that the precedent established by Brown v. the Board of Education should be applied to their case. They won, and the ICC banned segregation on transportation engaging in interstate travel (though the ruling went largely unenforced until 1961). This was the first of many civil rights cases for Roundtree, who became the first Black woman to join the Women's Bar in Washington D.C. in 1962.

In 1964, Roundtree defended a Black man, Raymond Crump, implicated in the murder of a white women, Mary Pinchot Meyer (believed to be a mistress of JFK). She argued that her client was significantly smaller than the suspect identified by a witness, and also that he was incapable of committing the crime due to a diminished mental capacity. Crump was acquitted. Roundtree's coauthor Katie McCabe has declared this the "most sensational murder case of the decade."

Roundtree continued to practice law until she retired in 1996. The initial release of her memoir in 2009 was commemorated by Michelle Obama, who wrote, "It is on the shoulders of people like Dovey Johnson Roundtree that we stand today, and it is with her commitment to our core ideals that we will continue moving toward a better tomorrow."

by Lisa Butts

Dovey Johnson Roundtree, courtesy of the New York Times

Filed under People, Eras & Events

This article relates to Mighty Justice. It first ran in the October 30, 2019 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 12 months or $12 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.25 per month.

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: River of the Gods
    River of the Gods
    by Candice Millard
    The Nile River has provided vital resources for millennia, serving as a source of water, food and ...
  • Book Jacket: Horse
    by Geraldine Brooks
    Geraldine Brooks creates a powerful backstory for 19th-century thoroughbred racehorse Lexington, ...
  • Book Jacket: Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance
    Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance
    by Alison Espach
    Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance will make you ache for a loss you didn't experience as you relate...
  • Book Jacket: Mercy Street
    Mercy Street
    by Jennifer Haigh
    Jennifer Haigh's Mercy Street centers around a Boston clinic that provides abortion services. The ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Carolina Moonset
by Matt Goldman
An engrossing novel about family, memories and secrets too dangerous to stay hidden.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Daughters of the Flower Fragrant Garden
    by Zhuqing Li

    A beautifully woven family memoir that coalesces into a vivid history of two very different Chinas.

  • Book Jacket

    Jackie & Me
    by Louis Bayard

    Master storyteller Louis Bayard delivers a surprising portrait of a young Jackie Kennedy as we've never seen her before.

Win This Book!
Win Where the Crawdads Sing

Win a signed copy of Where the Crawdads Sing

In celebration of the movie release on July 15, we have three signed copies to give away.



Solve this clue:

T O Thing W H T F I F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.