Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary
This New York Times Notable Book of the Year, 1998, is now in trade paper.
From the bestselling author of Eyes on the Prize, here is the definitive biography of the great lawyer and Supreme Court justice.
2000 Reissue, Juan Williams, 504 pp, Paperback
"In this saga of the U.S. quest for what it has yet to achieve--peaceful racial coexistence--Marshall is presented as a revolutionary "of grand vision." Williams renders an exceptional biography, inclusive of Marshall's vanities and warts. He opens with Marshall as the first black solicitor general, engaged with President Lyndon Johnson in a cat-and-mouse game on his possible appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Williams draws on the ironies of the meeting: two southerners from humble backgrounds, both hard-drinking, somewhat socially crude, apparently mutually respectful despite their positions on opposite sides of the racial divide. From this dramatic beginning, Williams traces Marshall's life from his ascension, to his deflation, and subsequent redemption.
At the turn of the century, in the relatively racially enlightened Baltimore, Marshall's status as a light-skinned, middle-class black person informed his worldview. Rejected by the University of Maryland Law School based on his color, Marshall was accepted at Howard University. His awakened racial consciousness transformed him from an undisciplined prankster to a brilliant student. After a short-lived career in private practice, Marshall entered his natural niche as an attorney for the NAACP, where he worked with others to lay the foundation for the civil rights movement. Though Marshall reached legendary status, generational discord during the civil rights era caused most baby boomers to identify with such personalities as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, or Stokely Carmichael, for whom Marshall had little respect.
But his symbiotic relationship with J. Edgar Hoover raised some questions and may reflect a low transition point. And his experience of 24 years on the High Court revealed that the failure of the integration strategy was not caused primarily by the misdirection of the black power movement but by the substantial and powerful national resistance to the ideals of integration. Yet Marshall's legal feats remain substantial. This is a must-read for all Americans and others concerned with the struggle for civil and individual rights." Vernon Ford. (Booklist)