The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall
Publication Date: January 2011
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Collected here together for the first time are the selected letters of one of the most influential and important activists in the American civil rights movementthe brilliant legal mind and foot soldier for justice, Thurgood Marshall.
For twenty years prior to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a rebellious young attorney with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Thurgood Marshall, struggled tirelessly to combat racism, discrimination, and segregation in schools, transportation, the military, businesses, and voting booths across America. This collection of letters, compiled and edited by Michael G. Long, and written by Thurgood Marshall during his tenure with the NAACPlong before he became a Supreme Court justicereveals this remarkable mans extraordinary intellectual development and invaluable contributions to the civil rights movement, highlighting his relentless work in helping secure equality and justice for all Americans.
Long traces Marshalls correspondence with the most powerful leaders of his dayJ. Edgar Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower, NAACP leader Walter White, and many otherscataloging how Marshall was able to accomplish in the courts what Martin Luther King Jr. would work to do from the pulpit and on the streets. Through these letters, we discover a startling new portrait of Marshall and gain a deeper understanding of the influences that spurred his unrelenting advocacy for societys most vulnerable. A window into the history and radical roots of the modern civil rights movement, these letters illuminate the strides that one man made, and the distance that still yawns between his goals and present-day reality.
Derrick Bell is Visiting Professor of Law at New York University Law School. He was for 15 years a member of the Harvard Law School faculty. As an NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer, he handled and supervised hundreds of school desegregation cases during the 1960s. He is the author of several books
including Race, Racism and American Law, Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth, Confronting Authority: Reflections of an Ardent Protester, Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism, and And We Are Not Saved. He lives in New York City.
“Thank Michael G. Long for bringing to a wider public . . . [this] well-edited collection of Marshall’s letters.”
-Kenneth J. Cooper, Boston Globe
“The approximately 200 letters and memoranda reproduced here give a comprehensive overview of Marshall’s role in ‘galvanizing the civil rights movement’. . . . Inspiring. . . . A nuanced treatment of a towering figure.”
“[Marshall’s] letters are plenty fascinating. Not to mention heartbreaking. . . . [Long] has done a wonderful job researching and editing and reminding us of how much we owe to all of our forebears, and this one in particular.”
-Louisville Courier Journal
“An inside look at the personality, experiences and business interactions of the man who would become the first black Supreme Court Justice.”
-Sister to Sister
“[E]nlightening. . . . Lawyers will read this book in total awe of Marshall’s accomplishments. It reads like a panoramic, at times kaleidoscopic history of race in America. . . . Long’s collection of Marshall’s record of work is beyond impressive.”
“This selection of letters reveals the depth and breadth of Marshall’s work long before what we consider the start of the Civil Rights Movement.”
“Thoroughly illuminating. . . . These letters offer a welcome and readable inner glimpse into [Marshall’s] work.”
“Marshalling Justice . . . allows us to see more clearly the trail this legendary litigator blazed for civil rights.”
“This important collection of Thurgood Marshall’s letters poignantly shows the constant motion of his legal mind - and heart - as he soldiered so bravely in pursuit of equal justice. Michael G. Long deserves high praise indeed for unearthing and bringing them to light.”
-Wil Haygood, author of King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
“Long has done the world a service. . . . The Marshall letters he has unearthed paint a vivid portrait of an unwavering warrior. . . . Marshalling Justice reminds us of how much can be learned from the collected correspondence of a great man. ”
-Kevin Merida, national editor of the Washington Post and co-author of Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas
“[These] letters vividly illustrate what life was like for African Americans in the mid-twentieth century and what it was like to be the nation’s most important civil rights lawyer. As good a way to get to know Marshall the man and his life as there is.”
-Mark Tushnet, author of Making Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1956-61