Spending More Time with Difference Maker Thurgood Marshall

I wrote the other day about making it about one-third of the way through Marshalling Justice, Michael Long’s edited collection of letters by Thurgood Marshall.

The book starts in the 1930s, after Marshall had graduated from Howard Law School, and continues through the landmark school desegregation decision he argued and won before the U.S. Supreme Court.

I spent more time with Marshall and his letters this morning and can say one thing with certainty.

The man had guts.

Marshall’s courage, coupled with his fierce intelligence and sense of moral outrage, pulse through each of the pages.  He endured endless indignities and the prospect of severe physical danger, including nearly being lynched, in the tireless service of his ideals of equality for all people and his relentless opposition to legalized segregation.

As I wrote before, Marshall also spoke out with ferocity against those within the movement who he felt were either too sentimental or self-serving, depending on the situation.

This part of the book also shows the toll the enormous workload-Marshall traveled all over the country to represent people who had been unfairly treated, abused or court martialed- and Marshall’s lifestyle of fatty food, endless work and heavy whiskey consumption took on him.  At one point he essentially had a physical breakdown and had to recuperate for a month.

The book also shows the reign of terror that existed in large parts of the country.  One woman’s story told about her being forced to leave her Texas home, where she was caring for elderly parents, because of a dispute with a neighbor about whether she could keep her cattle in a yard (Although she did in fact have this permission, the woman left to preserve her life, nevertheless.).

These anecdotes underscore the severity of the obstacles Marshall faced and the personal and professional resources he brought to bear on them.

It’s very inspiring stuff, and I hope the book receives as wide an audience as possible.

In the meantime, I look forward to finishing it soon.

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