By Nicole Hennessy
Dr. Paul H. Mitrovich, recently retired after 30 years’ service with the Lake County, Ohio, Common Pleas Court, has always had an interest in the history of segregation in American schools. So, no longer serving full time as a judge, he decided to write a book, “Justice Served,” detailing the court cases that led up to the abolishment of that practice.
Speaking to a small group of people gathered in Lakewood Public Library’s downstairs auditorium April 25, he gave a hourlong history lesson on some of the pivotal moments in both U.S. history and his book.
When people ask what “Justice Served” is about, Mitrovich, avoiding the inevitable yawns that follow long explanations, sums it up with one word: “Change.”
Going as far back as 100 years, the book also explores the “attitude or mental perspective of what life was about” back then.
He explained that decisions that seem correct at the time, in our own lives, do not always seem that way years later, in hindsight. It all has to do with mindsets, which is based on what’s around us or what we know at the time.
“We had a mindset in the United States that related to slavery,” which was based on the results of the Civil War and Reconstruction, Mitrovich said.
“There was a lot of discrimination, and segregation was rampant; it was a theme throughout the country,” he continued.
He then went through the ways in which the Constitution protected slavery and segregation, holding back on the social implications and keeping his thesis focused on legal history.
The first case he mentioned was the Dred Scott case, which decided that African-Americans were not citizens, but property.
“Change,” he said, “is a condition that’s almost impossible to create.” But when it does come about, it happens very slowly.
He continued his lecture in the fashion that a history professor might, relaying the facts that led up to the change in our society and the change of our attitude toward African-Americans.
From the outlawing of slavery to the inclusion of African-Americans in universities, particularly law universities, he continued on the timeline that his book follows.
What he calls the final blow against blacks is the case Plessy v. Ferguson, which gave the states the right to discriminate against whomever they saw fit, including Asians and Native Americans, among other nonwhite groups.
Ending his lecture with the Brown v. Board of Education case that ended segregation in America’s schools, Mitrovich said this case made our country better and gave people more rights than at any point in our history.
“Unfortunately,” he continued, when President Richard Nixon came into office, he felt that civil rights came too quickly.
“How can the rights of a people come too quickly?” he asked, pausing and then answering himself. “They cannot.”
Regardless, throughout his presidency, Nixon continued to undermine much of the civil rights legislation that came before him.
Having read over 200 books on the subject of African-American history in order to write “Justice Served,” Mitrovich never came across a book that traced the evolution, through government, of how the civil rights movement finally became successful.
By appointment of the Ohio Supreme Court, Mitrovich currently sits on cases throughout the state of Ohio. He also teaches criminology and criminal procedure at Lakeland Community College.
Copies of “Justice Served” can be found at Mac’s Backs bookstore on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights, or through Halo Publishing International at www.halopublishing.com.