Kersten book reexamines crusading Clarence Darrow

Prof. Andrew E. Kersten

Prof. Andrew E. Kersten

Clarence Darrow: An American Iconoclast, a new book by award-winning University of Wisconsin-Green Bay historian Andrew Kersten, was released this week by Hill & Wang, a division of Macmillan publishing.

The book is described as the first full-length biography of Darrow in decades. It draws upon new archival records and goes well beyond the familiar story of the socially conscious lawyer who became one of America’s most famous legal figures. It document his influence beyond politics and the courtroom. Darrow, Kersten’s biography argues, was a transformational figure who led the fight for the American traditions of individualism, freedom, and liberty “in the face of the country’s inexorable march toward modernity” and increasing government and corporate control.

Clarence Darrow: American Iconoclast by Andrew E. Kersten

Reviews have been positive. Noted civil rights attorney Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center says he has long been inspired by Darrow’s life story. “Kersten’s well-written book reveals Darrow as an early crusader against corporate abuse of human rights,” Dees writes, in the mold of Upton Sinclair and Ralph Nader.

Publishers Weekly’s review notes the 320-page volume does justice to the famous court cases, as well: “The brilliance and daring of Darrow’s legal strategies make this skillful, absorbing biography most riveting, especially with his masterful handling of the controversial Leopold-Loeb case, the unpopular Scopes ‘monkey trial,’ and the Sweet case, where a black family defended their home from attacks by their white neighbors.”

Kersten joined the UW-Green Bay faculty in 1997 after earning his Ph.D. in American history from the University of Cincinnati. A full professor with the Social Change and Development academic unit, he holds the distinguished Frankenthal Professorship and is one of only two professors in UW-Green Bay history to be a four-time recipient of the Founders Association Award for Excellence. He earned the award in the category of community outreach in fall 2009, for scholarship in 2008 and for teaching in 2007. He was part of a larger Voyageur magazine team that shared the 2006 Founders Award for collaborative achievement.

He has written extensively on the experiences of workers in the 20th century. His books include Race, Jobs, and the War (2000), an investigation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fair Employment Practice Committee; Labor’s Home Front: The American Federation of Labor and World War II (2006); A. Philip Randolph: A Life in the Vanguard (2007); and Politics and Progress: The American State and Society since the Civil War, which he co-edited.

Additional information about Clarence Darrow: An American Iconoclast can be found at the publishers website,

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