Term Paper: Thurgood Marshall

Pages: 4 (1421 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sociology  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Marshall believed in a free society as a natural right, confirmed as democratic by choice of a republican form of government cemented in the Constitution. He could not tolerate a promiscuous racist society. History and experience had taught Marshall that internal structures that insult individuals because of race, dashed human spirit, crippled imagination, lynched human flesh, denied the right to vote and allowed for unequal education was unwelcome conduct."

Marshall got an important opportunity to get his point across with his two landmark cases Smith v. Allright (1944) and Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. The former rejected "all-white primaries," and resulted in enfranchisement of 750,000 blacks citizens of southern states. The latter helped overturn Plessy v. Ferguson doctrine of 'separate but equal' and stood against Harlan's dissent of 1898 in which in wrote: "The white race deems itself to be the dominate race in this country. And so it is, in prestige, in achievement, in education, in wealth and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty." (163 U.S. 537 (1896) 559)

Marshall kept climbing the ladder of success because of his principled stand on the issue of civil rights. He knew his worth and was not willing to settle for less, which played an important role in his appointment as Justice of Supreme Court in 1967. Without faith in his abilities, he would have never been able to rise to the top, as he was a black man living in highly biased society. In 1960s, when John F. Kennedy decided to appoint him to Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Southern Congressmen and his own brother Robert Kennedy staunchly opposed his decision. (Bland, 1973) Robert Kennedy wanted to avoid confrontation with southern senators and therefore decided to offer district court appointment to Marshall instead of Second Circuit Court of Appeals. But Marshall wasn't to be so easily intimidated by opposition and when Kennedy said, "You don't seem to understand. It's this [the district court job] or nothing." Marshall replied calmly, "I do understand. The trouble is that you are different from me. You don't know what it means, but all I've had in my life is nothing. It's not new to me. So goodbye." (Perry, 1991, 96-97)

Marshall believed that in a fair society, it was impossible to hold one race above another and to grant people more rights on the basis on their skin color. During his long and illustrious career, he was accorded many opportunities to make a statement against biased American society. His successful struggle in the black race a desire to fight for equal rights which led to the Civil Rights Movement in 1964 and later gave rise to numerous anti-discrimination laws in the country. Marshall knew that the primary reason behind blacks' inability to get their rights for their own apathy. They had decided to live with whatever they were getting which was the reason they were heavily discriminated against in society. Marshall once commented on the Brown decision saying that this case "probably did more than anything else to awaken the Negro from his apathy to demanding his right to equality." (Williams, 1990)

Marshall was therefore rightly given the title of Mr. Civil Rights. He with his mentor, Houston, played an influential role in discarding history or heritage in legal interpretation process. He helped create a society where basic human dignity acted as the guiding principle instead of color or race.


Barbara A. Perry, A Representative Supreme Court? The Impact of Race, Religion and Gender on Appointments, Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1991.

J. Clay Smith Jr., Thurgood Marshall: fighting for a moral society. Magazine Title: Negro History Bulletin. Publication Date: January-December 2001. Page Number: 49+.

Juan Williams. Article Title: The Thurgood Marshall nobody knows; first Black Supreme Court Justice recalls his life on the front line of the civil rights issue. Magazine Title: Ebony. Volume: 45. Issue: 7. Publication Date: May 1990. Page Number: 68+.

Peter B. Levy, The Civil Rights Movement. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of Publication: Westport, CT.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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