Thurgood Marshall: His Speeches, Writings, Arguments, Opinions, and Reminiscences

Thurgood Marshall: His Speeches, Writings, Arguments, Opinions, and Reminiscences

Thurgood Marshall: His Speeches, Writings, Arguments, Opinions, and Reminiscences

Thurgood Marshall: His Speeches, Writings, Arguments, Opinions, and Reminiscences

Synopsis

Much has been written about Thurgood Marshall, but this is the first book to collect his own words. Here are briefs he filed as a lawyer, oral arguments for the landmark school desegregation cases, investigative reports on race riots and racism in the Army, speeches and articles outlining the history of civil rights and criticising the actions of more conservative jurists, Supreme Court opinions now widely cited in Constitutional law, a long and complete oral autobiography, and much more. Marshall's impact on American race relations was greater than that of anyone else this century, for it was he who ended legal segregation in the United States. His victories as a lawyer for the NAACP broke the colour line in housing, transportation, voting, and schools by overturning the long-established 'separate-but-equal' doctrine. But Marshall was attentive to all social inequalities: no Supreme Court justice has ever been more consistent in support of freedom of expression, affirmative action, women's rights, abortion rights, and the right to consensual sex among adults; no justice has ever fought so hard against economic inequality, police brutality, and capital punishment.

Excerpt

This tremendously useful collection of writings and statements by Thurgood Marshall permits readers to go behind the symbolism that encases Marshall's reputation to see concretely what he wrote and thought over the course of his distinguished career. Many people know that Thurgood Marshall was an important African American "first"—the first black judge to sit on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the first black solicitor general, and the first black Supreme Court justice. Many people also know that before he began to be appointed to high government posts in the 1960s, Marshall served as the chief attorney for the NAACP and in that capacity directed an extraordinary campaign of litigation that advanced the legal rights of African Americans (and by extension all racial minorities). Largely missing from public understanding, however, is detailed knowledge about the work he produced. In the following pages, one can study firsthand various facets of that work. One can read briefs and oral arguments in which Marshall attempted to elicit favorable responses from judges, speeches and articles in which he attempted to set agendas for fellow jurists, essays in which he attempted to influence lay audiences, and opinions in which, as a justice, he applied his interpretation of the law to specific disputes. Also in the pages that follow is a transcript of an extensive, intimate interview with Justice Marshall that has never before been published. By bringing materials out of hard-to-reach research libraries and making them broadly accessible, Professor Mark Tushnet permits readers to make up their own minds on an informed basis about Marshall's strengths and weaknesses.

Chief among the strengths was an unflagging persistence directed at exposing massive defects in American democracy. From the oldest article in the collection ("Equal Justice Under Law," written in 1939 for The Crisis) to the most recent ("A Tribute to Justice William J. Brennan," written in 1990 for the Harvard Law Review), Thurgood Marshall single-mindedly identified socially destructive practices, policies, and habits of mind: lynching, segregation, torture, capital punishment, complacency in the presence of brutality, indifference toward poverty. He was the lawyer as muckraker: exposing injustice, shaming apathy, demanding intelligent response.

Some of the evils against which Marshall railed are safely interred in American history. One of these is the ghastly phenomenon of lynching—murder perpetrated by a group to punish people for perceived violations of law or custom. Between the 1880s and the 1930s, particularly in the South, white supremacists deployed lynching as a weapon of racial intimidation. During that period at least 4,700 people were lynched, 70 percent of whom were black. Among the most sobering of the pages that follow are those in which Marshall excoriates the failure of states and the federal government to protect African Americans from racist, vigilante violence. In . . .

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