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From Thurgood


Justice Marshall was born in 1908, and that was a pivotal year in the saga of racial history in the United States of America. The master-slave paradigm was giving way. To some, that spelled disaster. There were some blacks, then called Negroes, who were coming up in the world, buying property, owning businesses, getting educated, reading and writing and remonstrating, and asserting their citizen rights. Such a turn of events was not acceptable to many, and they retaliated with force. One such outbreak happened in 1908, when Thurgood was born. It occured in Springfield, Illinois, and the nation took notice, probably helped by the fact that Springfield was Abe Lincoln's home, and the Great Emancipator's memory was a bit sullied by such a riot. The year 1908 represented a crux, a crossroads in time.

Men and women of color had been vitally involved in fighting for their rights. They met in conventions and in conferences. They organized in a movement they called Niagara in an effort to harness the relentless force of water. They published newspapers. There were others who took up the cause as well, and they had more resources. Out of that collective, the NAACP came to life. When he became a man, Thurgood joined the fight, and he was a warrior second to none. The challenges that he faced down, inequality in education, in jobs, and before the law, have not turned to dust, and his life, lived totally within the compass of the twentieth century, spanned the violent reprisals early in the century up through the Depression through Jim Crow segregationist policies in the streets, in the stores, in restaurants, in waiting rooms, in classrooms, in courtrooms, into and beyond the 1960s when the exertions of prior generations joined the exertions of the youth and would not be turned back. His life shows us that we come from people of valor and resolve and persistence and we must be prepared to marshal our forces, as he did, to understand the fights at our back and those awaiting us around the next corner. I leave you with the opening words from the play Thurgood.

-From the introduction by Barbara Lewis, Director, Trotter Institute

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