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

By Thurgood Marshall; Mark V. Tushnet | Go to book overview

Introduction

"Mr. Civil Rights" to African Americans in the 1950s; the first African American justice of the United States Supreme Court; one of the few justices who would appear in history books even if he had not been appointed to the Supreme Court; the last Warren Court liberal on the Supreme Court; one of the most important American lawyers in the twentieth century. All these phrases describe Thurgood Marshall.

Marshall's career centered on the contradiction between the Constitution's promises and its reality. He was passionately devoted to the Constitution, and yet he always recognized that the real world did not fulfill the Constitution's commitments, and might never do so. In a formulation he repeated often, Marshall said, "the goal of a true democracy such as ours ... is that any baby born in the United States, even if he is born to the blackest, most illiterate, most unprivileged Negro in Mississippi, is, merely by being born and drawing his first breath in this democracy, endowed with the exact same rights as a child born to a Rockefeller. Of course it's not true. Of course it never will be true. But I challenge anybody to tell me that it isn't the type of goal we should try to get to as fast as we can."

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1908, Marshall was raised in segregation, and always thought of himself as a Southerner; when President Richard Nixon was reportedly seeking a Southerner to name to the Supreme Court, Marshall jocularly but pointedly commented that as far as he was concerned there already was a Southerner on the Court. But he was of course an African American Southerner, shaped by the experience of segregation. Even as the son of reasonably well-established parents, his mother a school teacher and his father the head of the serving staff at an elite white country club, Marshall felt the sting of segregation as he grew up. One of his most vivid memories was of having to rush home to find a bathroom he could use, being unable to locate one open to a black child in downtown Baltimore. Segregation could not dampen Marshall's spirit, however, and he recalled a number of fights provoked by his reaction to being treated as a second-class citizen.

Initially intending to become a dentist like his brother William, Marshall attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, but he encountered trouble in his science classes and changed his aspirations. Excluded by state law from the University of Maryland Law School, Marshall attended Howard University Law School. The Howard experience transformed his life. Marshall went to Howard just as it was undergoing a dramatic reorientation under the leadership of Charles Hamilton Houston, a charismatic graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School. Houston changed Howard Law School from a second-rate night school to what he called a school for "social engineers." Houston was a demanding teacher, who inspired his students to do the best work they could and to put their talents to the service of their community.

-xviii-

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Thurgood Marshall: His Speeches, Writings, Arguments, Opinions, and Reminiscences
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Thurgood Marshall - His Speeches, Writings, Arguments, Opinions, and Reminiscences *
  • Contents *
  • Foreword ix
  • Introduction xviii
  • Part I Legal Briefs and Oral Arguments 1
  • Part II Writings and Speeches as a Lawyer 67
  • Part III Writings as a Judge 171
  • Part IV Judicial Opinions 303
  • Part V Reminiscences 411
  • Selected Bibliography 515
  • Appendix: Annotated List of Important Decisions 517
  • Permissions Acknowledgments 536
  • Index 539
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