Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary

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9780812920284: Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary

From the bestselling author of Eyes on the Prize, here is the definitive biography of the great lawyer and Supreme Court justice.
Thurgood Marshall stands today as the great architect of American race relations, having expanded the foundation of individual rights for all Americans. His victory in the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the landmark Supreme Court case outlawing school segregation, would have made him a historic figure even if he had not gone on to become the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court. As a young lawyer, Marshall dealt with criminal cases in which blacks were routinely sent to their deaths with barely a trial, and he was once nearly lynched while defending a client.
Remembered as a gruff, aloof figure, Marshall in fact had great charisma and a large appetite for life. Away from the courtroom, he was a glamorous figure in Harlem circles, known as a man-about-town who
socialized with prizefighter Joe Louis, singer Cab Calloway, and other black luminaries. He lived in every decade of the century and knew every president from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, becoming a respected member of Washington's power elite, known for his savvy and quick wit.
But beneath Marshall's charm was a hard-nosed drive to change America that led to surprising clashes with Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X. Most intriguing of all was Marshall's secret and controversial relationship with FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, revealed here for the first time.
Based on eight years of research and interviews with over 150 sources, Thurgood Marshall is the sweeping and inspirational story of an enduring figure in American life, a descendant of slaves who became a true hero for all people. As Juan Williams shows, in page after vivid page, Thurgood Marshall fulfilled the promise of democracy and changed our history.

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Review:

Washington Post correspondent and TV commentator Juan Williams has produced an illuminating look at a true giant of 20th-century American politics. Williams retells the story of Thurgood Marshall's successful desegregation of public schools in the U.S. with his victory in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, followed by his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1967 for a 24-year term. But he also recounts how W.E.B. Du Bois, then the head of the NAACP, gave a cold shoulder to the younger Marshall (who eventually helped oust Du Bois from the organization), and describes the tug of war between Marshall and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, as well as the mind games Lyndon Johnson played on Marshall before nominating him for the Supreme Court. Readers also learn about Marshall's relationship with his replacement, Clarence Thomas, which was surprisingly civil given their contrary views on affirmative action. Williams has captured many examples of Thurgood Marshall's heroism and humanity in this comprehensive yet readable biography of a complex, combative, and courageous civil rights figure. --Eugene Holley Jr.

From the Publisher:

Times Books editor Jon Karp: A great deal has been written about Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, but as Juan Williams proves in this illuminating biography, the true architect of America's civil rights movement was Thurgood Marshall. It was Marshall who engineered the legal strategy that integrated America's schools, neighborhoods, businesses, and voting booths, and it was his advocacy of affirmative action that gave black Americans entry to places from which they had previously been denied. All of this occurred well before Marshall's ascension to the Supreme Court, on which he served for 25 years, playing a crucial role in a number of the most important legal decisions of our time.


In other words, Thurgood Marshall is a major American figure who lived at the center of race relations in America for over fifty years. Until now, Marshall has never been the subject of a thoroughly researched biography for general readers, and now, we have the ideal biographer: Juan Williams, a nationally known commentator, Washington Post reporter, Emmy-award winning documentary writer, and best-selling author of EYES ON THE PRIZE. This book is Juan's magnum opus. He's been working on it for the past eight years, interviewed over 150 sources, and conducted over 20 hours of exclusive interviews with Marshall.


This book is the definitive word on Marshall's life. Juan Williams takes us behind the scenes during all of the important movements in Marshall's career: His early criminal cases, in which he fought to save the lives of innocent black men on death row and developed a life-long opposition to the death penalty; his pioneering desegregation and voting rights cases in Texas; the incredible story of the time he was almost lynched after successfully arguing a case in Mississippi; plus his legendary work on Brown versus The Board of Education; his battle with Bobby Kennedy to secure an appointment as a federal court judge; his negotiations with J. Edgar Hoover, who was an enemy at first and later an important ally, and the inside story of how Marshall helped Hoover uproot communists from the NAACP; and his years on the Supreme Court, where he frustrated conservatives by holding onto his seat and fighting for the disenfranchised longer than anyone ever expected.


While I was reading this book, I realized that there is nobility to Marshall's life. His is a classic inspirational American story, up from nowhere, propelled by will and wit and all the way to the highest levels of power in the United States. This is a sweeping study of an iconic figure in American life, an ordinary man who became extraordinary and changed our history.

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