Focus; Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary
Good morning this is focused 580 our morning telephone talk show. My name is Jack Brighton sitting in for your regular host David in our producers are Harriet Williamson and Travis Stanzel and Henry Frayne is at the controls. Glad you're listening. Almost 50 years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in the field of public education the doctrine of separate but equal has no place. The unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education held that separate educational facilities for white and black students are inherently unequal and established a constitutional basis for racial integration in schools. The University of Illinois has embarked on a year long project to examine the legacy of the Brown v. Board of Education decision as part of this. This morning on focus 580 we're pleased to have with us Juan Williams senior correspondent for National Public Radio and author of several books on the American civil rights movement including the biography Thurgood Marshall American revolutionary. Juan Williams is here on the campus of the University of Illinois to give a public presentation tonight
at 7 o'clock in the folder auditorium. This is the inaugural event of the university's commemoration of brown and this presentation by Juan Williams tonight is free and open to anyone who would like to attend. During this hour focused 580 We'll talk with Juan Williams about the life of Thurgood Marshall his role in the Brown case and his profound impact on civil rights in the United States. If you would like to join our conversation all you need to do is call us the number around Champaign-Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. We also have a toll free line. Anywhere you hear it's around the Midwest or if you're listening on the web anywhere in the U.S. 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. A bit more about our guest Juan Williams is one of America's leading journalists in 21 years at The Washington Post he served as an editorial writer Op-Ed Columnist and White House reporter from 2000 to 2001 he was host of NPR's call on program TALK OF THE NATION and brought that show to towns across America for a monthly series of radio town hall meetings. His books include The
national bestseller all eyes on the Prize America's Civil Rights Years 1954 to 1965. A companion book to the PBS series and this far by faith stories from the African American religious experience. Juan Williams is also a political analyst for the Fox News Channel and a regular panelist on Fox News Sunday. You may have also seen him on Nightline. Washington we can review Oprah CNN's CROSSFIRE where he frequently serves as co-host and CAPITAL GANG Sunday. You can also hear his reports on NPR and Morning Edition in particular and we're glad to have him with us. Jack it's a pleasure to be with you thank you for having me. Well we're glad to have you here. Most people today think about leaders in the civil rights movement they probably don't think about Thurgood Marshall as not as they might in fact that you write in the introduction in the book I write that you know people think when they focus on civil rights and leaders they think of course of Dr. King who's sort of the icon of all civil rights efforts. And then they think of almost a compliment or the antithesis to. Dr. King would be Malcolm
X. And so that you know not comics I think speaks to a lot of young people especially young people who are struggling with authority and rebellion and there's Malcolm X who was gave such a wonderful voice to the idea of anger at racial oppression in the society. But they're slow to come to Thurgood Marshall who I think really is the man who broke so much of the ground and really stands tall even in the company of Dr. King and Malcolm X. But if you think of Marshall as most young people you know today would remember him and he died 10 years ago now. But if you think of him you think of kind of us from the overweight guy you know in that heavy black cloak of a Supreme Court justice a sort of a an authoritarian figure. Not the young revolutionary who was out there battling to change American society and to defeat racism in the system in the country. And that image is one that I hope that people can come to because I think it helps to have that fuller understanding of not only him but American history to understand exactly the role he played.
He's born 19 0 8 in Baltimore Maryland a thoroughly segregated society and of course by the time he dies in 95. For January 94 what you have is a man whose life literally is on the same path of a transform society. You call him really the architect of the civil rights movement. Oh I don't think there's any question Jack you know if you think about the idea of the struggle for equality it is based in large part on the idea that segregation is wrong it's not the separate but equal in that we want separate and equal and we want you know separate but equal for the longest time was really a dodge in American society because there was no separate equal they were separate but they were separate and unequal facilities and treatment of citizens based on their race. Marshall comes in and eventually with tremendous help from other lawyers at the end of the legal defense one principally from Charles Hamilton Houston who was not only his boss at the legal defense fund for a time but the man who was the
dean at Howard University Law School where Marshall went to law school. He's able to make the leap that says No longer am I arguing that separate but equal is the problem that we need equal facilities. It's an argument that segregation itself and this comes from something you read at the start of the program. Segregation itself in the area of public education is unconstitutional and a violation of our you know Americans 14th amendment rights regardless of race to have equal treatment under the law. He didn't give a lot of interviews you know sure did and you know what. You got to talk to talk to you a number of times over a period of months. Yeah well it was quite a struggle to get there I really wanted to talk to him for eyes on the prize of the book and to see if he would sit down for the TV series that we did on PBS but he wanted no part of that very much gun shy about reporters felt that reporters didn't understand and didn't appreciate him. You know it's one of these things Jack that you come across in life where you you meet someone who is larger than life and Thurgood Marshall in terms of his history his role in history is larger than life figure and a Supreme Court justice I mean
forget if even if he hadn't been this amazing lawyer he's also a Supreme Court justice he reminds me that Lyndon Johnson said when he was nominated to the Supreme Court even if I never put Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall would be a giant of American history given what he had accomplished before. But as a result of that you know to come to know Thurgood Marshall it really was striking that this giant was a human being and the human being oftentimes nursed resentments and grudges and felt as if people didn't appreciate him or understand him felt that he'd been forgotten had bitterness about race relations even though he had a he had been so central in achieving this transformation I've been speaking about this morning. And so you have to sort of. Work with Thurgood Marshall the human being and try to tease out. You know that the stories the reality of what he accomplished but he was a human being with a lot of hurts. Well let's talk about his earlier life that led up to his engagement in the struggle
for civil rights as you mentioned he grew up in Baltimore in a very segregated society people don't remember you know. Well not too many people remember what it was like in those days that the law of the land was as you said separate but equal established by the Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court standard that that was that was considered equal rights right. Black students were in some stool school in some schools and whites were in other schools. And so he attended an all black high school. And one of the things that you write about I thought was fascinating is he was quite a cut up and his punishment one of the teachers made him memorize the U.S. Constitution. Yes. He says that by the time he got out of high school he knew the Constitution by heart because he would get in trouble on such a regular basis it wasn't he was a bad student he was a very good student but he was a cut up and you know kind of acting out and even in the bad classes. Oftentimes you know the kind of guy they would just do silly things and so
what part of his punishment was not only to learn the constitution but to be able to recite it. So it's kind of. Most people I don't think could recite the Constitution but this guy could come out of high school and he could see the contradictions. If you see them literally you know in fact this is an interesting point because he had a seat in his high school that was next to the window in the room and outside that window was the police station and he could see oftentimes black people being dragged in he could hear arguments he could hear interrogations and additional which his father his father who had a problem with alcohol but was a steward at the Gibson Island Country Club on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. You know when he would interact with his son when they weren't screaming at each other of the dinner table which I suppose helped Thurgood Marshall's skills in terms of argument debate he would take his son Thurgood Marshall to court rooms to see what was so Thurgood could. Sit it sit in school he'd watch prisoners come in see the interrogations then often times with his dad for fun for entertainment purposes they would go to court rooms around the city and watch
trials. And so for him it was a real opportunity to learn how the system works to learn how people powerful people interacted with the law to recreate the reality of life in what you know historians call the middle ground Baltimore Maryland kind of middle ground between North and South. So by the time you graduate high school someone asked what you want to do with his life. He said I want to be a lawyer. Incredible but true. I mean you know it's a gift if you're young and you know what you want to do but given what his dad his dad had always wanted to I think be a lawyer but it was a fantasy given that time period. Yeah he knew. And and not only did he know. He wasn't sure that he could do it but but he he knew and had in mind the idea that he could go to Lincoln University as all black school then call the Princeton the black Princeton because it was founded by the Presbyterians Princeton University New Jersey founded by Presbyterians for bright young white man and Lincoln was for you bright young black man and he was going to go to the school following in his
brother's footsteps. And he goes to that school and has what I think of as sort of you know an apocryphal experience because he runs into no other than Langston Hughes and Langston Hughes the great writer the poet the author had already been traveling the world had published poetry and the like but was coming back to finish his undergraduate education at Lincoln and runs into Thurgood Marshall who was big man on campus big mouth always screaming for the football team involved in fraternity pranks never got over being a prankster. And then he Langston he says to Marshall you know you've got so much to say about everything on this campus but you've got nothing to say about segregation on this campus in March what are you talking about you know I came here to have a good time he said no you know we have no black people on the faculty. Why is that. You know and Marshall's like well if we had black people on the faculty they belong to one fraternity or another they'll be favoritism all the rest. And it's only after he has an experience. Going to a segregated movie theater where he is denied the ability to sit in the lower seating area that Marshall
starts to work with Langston Hughes to get the students to make a demand of the administration that they allow black people to serve on the faculty at Lincoln and a year later that comes about that the first time that I think Marshall has a sense that his one raising his political conscience but two that his actions can lead to real change. We have a call to include a conversation I just want to ask one more follow up question to to make the transition into law school for Thurgood Marshall and I promise I'll get to this listener after graduate from Lincoln. He wanted to go into law school but the University of Maryland Law School which was right there wouldn't allow blacks. No in fact that's right they are right down the street from where he was living in West Baltimore Maryland. But they didn't you know they didn't admit colored people as they said back then. And so he goes to Howard University Law School which is 40 miles down the road in Washington D.C. which is where he meets Charles Hamilton Houston the Dean the man I referred to earlier. But he nurses that resume. I mentioned earlier that he's a guy who could hold a grudge a guy
could hold a grudge and he didn't like the fact that he had been unable to attend. I would have been not only more convenient because of his location but a cheaper school than Howard and so he he strategizes with another young man someone who just graduated from Amherst a young man named Al Gaines Murray to make an application to the University of Maryland Law School comes back a stamp rejected we don't accept people of color. Then Marshall asked Murray to write a letter to the university president saying why graduate from Amherst with honors and I'm a lifelong resident the state of Maryland Why can't I go to the University's Law School. And the letter comes back saying well you know we don't accept people of color and with that Marshall filed a lawsuit on behalf of the doll against Mary the suit is heard pretty quickly much to his surprise and the judgment is that since there is no equal and separate in equal law school for black students in the State the University of Maryland Law School must be integrated. There's a lot more to that. But let's talk with a listener if this is someone in Chicago on line
number four. Good morning you're in focus 580. Well Mr. Williams This is sort of a technical question. There was a really good graffiti of Thurgood Marshall written not too long ago I don't know maybe six or seven years I'm sorry Kevin. Member the author so when you came to write yours. What did you say to yourself after reading this. What did you say I'm going to bring this different angle or was it just the story that you really needed to express. Even though there was you know. Or did you feel you were bringing in new material suggests just a technical question about how thought you know that you may be referring to my book because my book is published in October of 98 when it first came out in paperback. I think I would have remembered your name because you're been well-known for a long time but maybe I didn't I'm not sure. OK. At the time I don't think there were any major biographies of Thurgood Marshall because as Jack mentioned earlier he was such a reluctant person when it came to talking to interviewing. There had been some smaller efforts.
There's a fact there's a very good biography of Charles Hamilton Houston. But no there are very few there's been subsequent to my book there have been a few that have come out some more legal listing. This is really the story of his life and looking at him as a a change agent if you will somebody who was involved from early in this century last century and how I should say early in the last century in achieving the kind of step by step changes that in my opinion have transformed the American landscape you know change it to such an extent that it's hard to recognize our position with regard to race but someone who believes deeply in the idea that Real change takes place in the courts. Marshall was a guy maybe this is if you're looking for you know the perspective that comes from my writing it would be that you know Marshall's a guy who you know would say you could go to a Dr. King's Speech and be wonderful and be inspiring thrilling even. But when you went back home the reality of job opportunities residential segregation school segregation would be in place but if you achieve change in the
courts then you would have leverage for permanent change change that would benefit not only you at the moment hopefully slow you know slowly came into being but change that would benefit children and grandchildren. Well he certainly is a worthy subject and thank you for your work in making his life well known. Well thank you so much. And thanks for the call. Other calls are welcome We're talking this morning with Juan Williams NPR correspondent author of the book Thurgood Marshall American revolutionary. The book by the way is published by three rivers press and you should be able to find it in bookstores and libraries. And one Williams will always also be speaking tonight at 7 o'clock at the full Ingur auditorium about the life of Thurgood Marshall as part of the University of Illinois 50th anniversary commemoration of Brown v. Board of Education. If you would like to join our conversation here. The number around Champaign-Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. Toll free elsewhere. 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. One of the you mentioned Charles Houston he's one of the biggest
influences in Thurgood Marshall's career and someone who just I think I haven't read his biography but deserves a lot of the credit as well. When when the Thurgood Marshall joined the student body at Howard University Law School there seemed to have been a change right about that time brought about by the faculty led by Charles Houston. Well it's tremendous change and change first of all in terms of the school itself because what happens is this has been a school that was a night school lots of people attending part time questions about its accreditation. And Charles Hamilton Houston who had been in World War one who had seen the kind of disparate treatment that black soldiers had received and had represented some of them and tried to prevent them from being. You know executed even for crimes that he thought were unfairly charged comes back he becomes a lawyer his father had been a lawyer in Washington and then takes on the challenge of reforming Howard University's Law School and he makes it into a day school raises the standards for not only the students who would be admitted but for the
faculty that causes a lot of tension a lot of people who resist that kind of change. And when marshal shows up there are thirty six students and he famously says to them you look to your left look to your right two of the three of you won't be here in three years to graduate. And you know history will indicate he was actually optimistic in that judgment because only six of the thirty six will graduate three years so he was really running a boot camp for lawyers a tremendously difficult training ground and martial thrives in it. MARSHALL The party boy the fraternity boy who had come through college you know as a good time animal is just just takes to it and takes the idea that he is going to be a first class lawyer and and begins really the opportunity comes because he becomes the law school librarian so he doesn't have to worry about that tuitions all the rest and but he does help. Charles Hamilton Houston as Houston for example conducts the defense of a man who's charged with murder in Virginia and the man had been had fled to Massachusetts. There was an attempt by the state then to extradite him to bring him back
to Virginia. They try to block that they can't then they were involved with the murder case. Marshall is just excited by the practice of the law especially even after you know the the man who was charged was charged in a double murder of white to a white woman to a white woman. He doesn't have against him an eye witness. There's no weapon there's no motive. Nonetheless he's found guilty Marshall is just stunned by this you know. But he's also stunned by the fact the man stands up with a broad smile and embraces Charles Hamilton Houston. And Marshall has to pull He says what's the celebration for we just lost and used to make it clear that the man would've been given the death sentence if the jury truly believed that he had committed such a terrible crime that basically what it is all white very rural jury was saying was you know put him in jail and put him in jail for life but that is from the perspective of the man who was on trial and from the perspective of his lawyer. What a victory that his life would not be taken so this kind of thing just spurs
Thurgood Marshall on. And there are other situations where he has sort of hands on training as a result of dealing with Houston who's already involved in this kind of struggle to bring equality to the country through the law. And that's the springboard he stands on Houston's shoulders and as he begins his own law career we have another call to talk with. Let's include them in our conversation. Next up a listener in ur band on line number one. Good morning on focus 580. Hi. I am originally from Mississippi. And I think there is great is. If I've ever read about her I would like to know. If he were alive today how would he feel about the wall in Iraq and how would he feel about the president that we have now. Thank you. Well Betty thank you for the call. I don't know exactly what the say mean.
You know it's hard to imagine but I can tell you this that you are Marshall Marshall was very much an opponent of war. Very much a man who believed in Americans promoting democracy but doing so in an effective way that would have been in line with the with the law and been in line with the idea that we have a responsibility to people right here at home that we have to take care of the home front. You know he lived through that World War 2. He's someone who went went to Asia to talk about the treatment of American soldiers in Asia. He lived through the whole period of what they call The Double V victory abroad in World War Two as well as victory here at home against racism and oppression. So I think Marshall would have said you know let's have one standard and it's not that he would have been a big fan of liberating the Iraqi people from the oppression of Saddam Hussein but I think that he would have been one to raise real questions about why we were there and how long we were there and all the rest of it he would have
been an active critic I think of the war and then again oh yeah you know it's interesting Betty this is this really takes me someplace because you may not know this but it's one of these little things about Thurgood Marshall when they when Kenya was fighting for its independence from Britain Kenya that the government of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta goes to Thurgood Marshall an American lawyer and ask him to get involved with writing the constitution for the newly independent Republic of Kenya. And he does this this American black American lawyer. So Marshall was one who believed deeply in the idea of international law. You know and would have been a big supporter I think of having the UN act to create an international alliance that would help and it wouldn't simply be an American issue with Iraq. Thank you. You're welcome. Thanks very much for the call. We're about at the midpoint with Juan Williams
talking about Thurgood Marshall American revolutionary in his book on Thurgood Marshall's life and his legacy in the civil rights movement. If you'd like to join us the number around Champaign-Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. Toll free elsewhere. 800 2 2 2 9 4 5 5. Continuing our narrative of this this period of history when Thurgood Marshall and Charles Houston were at Howard University they began to be involved or I think Houston involved. Marshall in the CPS work on behalf of a number of clients who were there whether it was criminal cases or educational segregation cases and so forth and they were trying a new channel new strategy that was designed by a Harvard lawyer Nathan Marr gold not to challenge racial segregation persuade but to insist that states provide truly equal schools for blacks knowing they couldn't afford it right now knowing they couldn't afford and therefore forcing them into grade the white schools I mean that that
was the idea and this is so interesting because this is all part of U.S. strategy created. You see people who are able to execute the strategy and then of course people who even as they fade from the scene are able to hand the baton off to someone like a Thurgood Marshall this young upcoming lawyer and get him excited bout to get him committed to it. Possibly you know the seminal moment comes when Houston and Marshall are traveling through the south looking at the disparate conditions of black and white schools in southern states and and Marshall you know for the first time CS he knew of course of the disparate conditions of black and white schools in his hometown of Baltimore Maryland. But to see that there were literally shacks that were passed off as schools in Alabama and Mississippi for black kids to see that teachers did not wasn't a matter of having second hand books but no books to see that these kids only went to school in the months of December January and February when there weren't crops to be planted or crops to be harvested.
This is what real martial then is. You know we talked about having his political consciousness raised gradually first in college then in law school but even after law school this sense of you know what we can accomplish real change and use the law of the law becomes his tool to create social change in a way that I think is unmatched in American history. So he forced the course to see that these were not separate but equal schools. No he forced the issue forced the issue in such a way that you know it's interesting he's not only forcing it in terms of education which is the you know the focus of the event that we're going to have here today at the University of Illinois and throughout the year commemorating Brown. But if you look at Marshall's legacy Marshall is one who was involved in breaking down segregation in terms of restricted covenants that kept blacks Jews and others from buying property in the best neighborhoods in town. He's also in the key in terms of the Montgomery bus boycott. That case would not have been settled if not for Thurgood Marshall winning it at the Supreme Court. He's also active in terms of parks and housing. He's active in terms of
it's hard to even and I mentioned earlier his efforts overseas where he's arguing with General Douglas MacArthur in Korea and Japan about the treatment of blacks in the military. It goes on and on in that way where Marshall is just so central to breaking down the walls of racial separation in American society. We have another caller to include in a conversation this is a listener in Champaign on line number one. Good morning you're on focus 580. You know what how you doing. Frank thanks thanks a call essential annoy. I read your book. Thurgood Marshall American revolutionary probably two years ago or more. And I have two questions one is quick. I believe you highlighted the blacksnake Whitesnake. And I like analogy. When asked about how you felt about the person who succeeded him on the Supreme Court current Justice Clarence Thomas is that in fact true or is that an apocryphal story. That's an apocryphal stories one I hear all the time as I travel around. But what happened was as
Marshall was retiring from the court he held a news conference and reporters came in it was an amazing event. But Marshall sitting there and people ask him about who he should who should succeed him on the court is his seat a black seat should that seat always be held by a black person and would it make a difference in terms of the way the law is interpreted. And Marshall says unknowing at that moment as to who his successor would be because no one had been named or nominated says you know that his father taught him that there's no difference between a black snake and a white snake that they'll both bite you they're both make. Well but he didn't know at that time. Justice Thomas you know any black justice would succeed in knowing you know. But but what what what has happened. And I think you pick up on this it's easy to understand is that because Thomas is so conservative and such a contrast to Marshall and he has generated so much emotion in terms of Americans beginning with the Anita Hill hearings and all the rest then the people pick that up and say oh you know that he must've been talking about Justice Thomas but
he didn't know at the time because Thomas hadn't been nominated at the time. Thank you my next question is this. You just it's a sort of a follow up to what you just said. No doubt Thurgood Marshall is an American hero and he did bring about great social change through the law. My understanding and my memory of reading your book is that he sometimes question Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His notion of bringing about social change for blacks through civil disobedience. Right. Now let me ask you this now as a historian as a scholar as a journalist as you look at the landscape. A full blacks today. Which of the two versions of the law or civil disobedience you think has helped Blacks the most in obtaining a measure on modicum of social justice in America. This is tough because I'm not sure it's an either or proposition it's one of these things and it's interesting. Marshall did see it as an either or proposition. He saw he said you know there's
no comparison. That if you want real change permanent change where you get the government and the power of the government on your side. You got to make the change in the courthouse in the law and have therefore the power the police the federal government the Justice Department the FBI right on your side in any confrontation where your rights are challenge. He was very much a strong believer that change comes through change in the law. Now I don't think though and I think Marshall was tone deaf to this. I don't think that you get as much change in this country as quickly as you do without without Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. without Malcolm X. I think these people in a sense are speaking to the culture to the poetry speaking to the hearts of people speaking to the conscience of the nation. Dr. King's appeal coming in you know from the pulpit in the Christian tradition. You know I think really touched America in a way that America was never going to be touched by a legal brief that Judeo-Christian ethic is one that spoke of
equality across races and there was King articulating it in a way that was a challenge to America's conscience. I just think that you know you have to give credit to that now as I say I know from talking with him Thurgood Marshall's not one of those people he would not have been given that greys and you know you got to be in the courtrooms and you know when you talked about civil disobedience remind me of something else that Thurgood Marshall would say you know you you put your children in position because of a lunch counter sit in or a freedom ride or a protest march. What happens to your children who get involved with that they end up in jail. Who is in charge of the jail the likes of Bull Connor and some of some of these other kind of fascist you know characters who delight in beating up these kids or embarrassing them. You know he was he was saying you know that's not what you want to do you want to put your children in that kind of danger. He was one who would say let's focus on the law let's focus on trying to create a permanent hard change so that we can speak with authority to the Bull Connor's the world rather than have them
reigning over our children in some dark jail so we don't know what's going on. Thank you very much Warren. You're welcome. Thanks for the call. Well there was also a certain amount of personal rivalry wasn't there I mean. Thurgood Marshall was Mr. civil rights. And here comes here comes this upstart. You know Martin Luther King Jr. He didn't even realize that you know I mean you're exactly right Jack I mean to say this verse that in 1959 when Jet magazine the black newsweekly asked the question who is the leading civil rights figure in America the answer I think to many people today would be a surprise it's not Martin Luther King Jr. who had then been on the scene for a few years it's Thurgood Marshall but Marshall is the guy who I think felt right from the start you know oh this king is an interesting guys a nice man. He knew his father and all the rest. He Marshall had already won the Brown case. He's getting married for the second time his first wife had died he's going off on vacation when the Montgomery Bus Boycott gets started is this little thing and their request for help from the
end in terms of the law challenging the law the time the Montgomery bus system was privately owned so you couldn't challenge the government it was like well wait a minute this is a privately run bus company and so what is the how does the law handle this. And Marshall asked one of the lawyers in his office to help with this as a favor to some other people down in Montgomery Alabama. And goes off on his honeymoon comes back and is amazed at all the headlines and all the controversy over what's taking place in the gallery and then doubly amazed that this young man who is then about 25 years old. Martin Luther King Jr. has become a national sensation because of his terrific ability as a speaker and as a leader. And so only later that he comes to understand that people view Marche view King's work on power on par with what he's doing. I mean from his perspective what madness he's been in the vineyard you know since the 30s are working to change the laws and to do away with segregation. And he sees King as a newcomer and he sees him as someone who's a great speaker
but certainly not creating the kind of change that he has. There's a great deal of drama to the story as Thurgood Marshall and his colleagues were traveling in Jim Crow South and all these places where they're arguing court cases and some are criminal cases and others who are school integration cases a fourth lot of personal danger for them yeah. You know I always think it's funny in some of these places they put Marshall on the back of a hearse so that repairs like that you know if there's a coffin in there dead person in order to protect them they move them from house to house in one case he was in a house that was bombed. And the guy that was trying to bomb actually the bomb went off too early so the man who was a bomber is injured in March was to come out and people are trying to help this man who is dying you know from wounds that in a sense self-inflicted as he was the one who is. Who created the bomb was going to launch at the house where Marshall was staying. Marshall moved from house to house in many of these cases you have situations where you know he goes into a member challenging the all white primary in the state of
Texas where he was a Democratic Party who held all white primaries and Marshall was very intent on challengers because so many of the politicians in washing the congressman especially from the southern states Democrats but segregationist and as they were segregationist as a result of the exclusion of blacks and oftentimes women as well as Hispanics from the primary process so by the time that people got to vote across racial lines in the general election they were had to choose between one segregationist and another I mean there was no opportunity to get someone who was of a different way of thinking in there. So Marshall is down in Texas challenging this and it one point when he's involved with this challenge or change their challenges to his life to his safety Another point is down in Texas. Same state same situation comes up he's challenging the right of blacks to serve on juries which was taken as a given but in fact blacks were always excluded in the process. And he's told that he should not come to Dallas because the police chief is going to threaten and kill him. I mean this is unbelievable and they say it. The police chief is going to kill you if you show up.
You know you know the other side of this is sort of a legendary side is that black people in small towns and big cities when they were able to finally get on Thurgood Marshall's agenda and the idea was that Thurgood Marshall was going to come in and argue a case and challenge the laws of segregation their community. They would really use this refrain they say Thurgood's a common burgher It's a common was like a promise it was it was like you know there was going to be a day of redemption because of the power that this man had in the court. We just have about 12 or 13 minutes left and there's a whole lot to cover that I'm sure we won't get to all that. There were a couple of cases leading up to Brown v. Board of Education I wanted to ask you talk a little bit about the sweate case. This was the first case that went to the Supreme Court which essentially resulted in really the first ruling. Do you think that separate but equal wasn't acceptable as at least as applied to law schools. Well what you have in the case and what the painter is is this idea of people working so hard to challenge still on the basis of
separate but equal segregation in the graduate professional schools. And so in sweat what you have is for the first time someone saying well wait a second if we're going to have separate facilities is it possible that we could have the students simply outside in a separate classroom. They could sit in the hallway even and listen to what's going on in the classroom with the white students or they actually have to be seated in the same classroom. You know you laugh Jack but this is it sounds so silly but this is the reality this is the kind of step step by step that America had to go through to break down segregation. Well it was also an amazing is that a lot at least in the case of you know I think I think it was in Missouri or the law school in Missouri the faculty in the student white students wanted to have the black students in the same school. Yeah I was in Oklahoma Oklahoma and the Oklahoma situation. But the whites were you know fine well that's what's the problem here. But again it's the political structure of the
political establishment that is just resistant to this change and so you have people who aren't even at the school who are trying to enforce this law and you know all kinds of craziness you know is this guy going to sit next to white girls black guys are going to sit next and so oh my god. And then there's all this kind of sexual tension you know is that is that what this is about or where will he eat where will he stay on campus what turns out the guy's married you know that the guy has a whole life and he's going to last woman. But all these fears and emotions I think then you can quite come to understand the enormity of the task that isn't really Marshall is hammering at the heart in terms of the law. But there's so much more in terms of the culture in terms of the fear in terms of the history the history that goes back of course to slavery then to Jim Crow segregation into denial of equal rights. There's so much that has to be dealt with in a sense when we think about Brown now 50 years later we're still dealing with so many of those shadows and echoes. I don't know even if you know if it's fair to call them shadows and echoes because so much of it is hard reality
but so much of that kind of baggage around Brown that remains. In fact one of the strategies they employed to argue the case of Brown is really I think what we're talking about when we speak of the shadows in the baggage and that is the psychological damage that segregation causes to human beings they actually had research psychological sociology sociological research to show that segregating black students away from white students was inherently. Harmful to the students. Yeah and in fact this was very controversial Jack because at the time and controversial not not even at first in terms of the court but first among the lawyers on Marshall's own legal team at the end WCP Marshall gets Kenneth Clark the psychologist and Mamie Clark his wife involved. They go down into South Carolina one of the five cases that are known as Brown v. Board brown boards actually the five cases I think it's Kansas. South Carolina Virginia Delaware in the District of Columbia.
And and what Clark does is this famous DOS test where he asked the black students to look at these black and white dolls and you know which one is prettier which one smart or which one has the better possibilities in the future and the black children looking at these black dolls would say that the black doll is dumber than the white doll the black doll is uglier than the white doll the white doll is always the prettier one that the black doll has less expect less of a future. And you know this kind of damage to this is an elementary school child speaking this way. And of course the blackball looks like that child and then come to understand the depths of damage done at a very young age by a thoroughly segregated. Nation to its children and so that's part of it and we you know we we hear refrains of that to this day I might say that there are arguments about whether or not the Brown decision was based on too much sociological evidence that argument then takes place among the justices on the court and critics to those they argue about whether or not Brown was sociology as opposed to law. But you hear echoes of this argument to this day in terms of
issues about self-esteem why is there an achievement gap between black and white students does it have to do with different sense of expectations maybe even the black students thinking that if you study hard you're acting white and all the rest. I think it's all in essence a refrain that the central argument in brown. Very interesting. We have just about seven minutes left with Juan Williams author of the book Thurgood Marshall American revolutionary. If you'd like to join us real quick we can take your questions 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 around Champaign-Urbana toll free anywhere else 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. There's a lot actually that we're kind of glossing over and so I would certainly suggest people read the book. One of the things that was amazing to read about is the elation upon the decision in Brown v. Board of Education was kind of deflated because really not much happened that way. Well you know it's 10 years before you start to see really. Integration of schools in the country in some places that happens fairly quickly the District of Columbia and areas of Delaware actually
Kansas is one of the places where it comes pretty quickly the government there did not really have much problem with it. But in the southern states my gosh they view it and you know that May 17th decision is Black Monday oh my gosh and massive resistance then takes root and you have places like Prince Edward County Virginia where they close all the schools so that the black kids can't go is going to put the white kids in these academies these segregationist academies to educate them some of which exist to this day. And so you start to see then the kind of threat that people viewed Brown has cast a tuning that they saw Brown as the end of their way of Southern segregated life and you know of course it leads to famous moments such as George Wallace sustained in the schoolhouse door to stop the integration the University of Alabama. We just passed the commemoration of what happened back in 62 with James Meredith finally breaking the color barrier at the University of Mississippi where National Guardsmen were killed kill shot to death. You know to try but because they were supporting him in trying to allow him to attend school there these things
are unbelievable. All part of the history and the aftermath of what was this earth shaking moment in legal and American political cultural history Brown vs. Board of Education May 17th 1054. We have a caller on line number four let's include them before at a time here this is a listener in Terre Haute online over for Good morning your own focus 580. Why not. I really enjoy seeing you on Fox. Oh thank you. On Sundays mainly And I I think you mean a lot of times to it and I think it's one of the reasons I can say a fair and balanced. Yeah I hope so. They've got you and myre on there. Yeah. MARA LIASSON NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO Unfortunately I don't see the same balance on public radio. I have only one guy Dan Schorr and I every once in awhile and that really is a problem they could you comment on the balance between say Fox and and Public Radio. Well you know I think most people would say that the struggle to attain balance in journalism is
ongoing but Fox people say it's to conserve them actually think that if you look at the news coverage on Fox it is fair and balanced it's the commentators. It's the Bill O'Reilly is the Sean Hannity's who are without a doubt coming from the right. On National Public Radio. Man do we make an effort to be actually fair and balanced and yet you know I think in part because we make this tremendous effort you have listeners who say but. You said this just not quite the right way and we get a lot of that especially with regard to what goes on in the Middle East. But you should know that Ike I mean I'm in both journalistic operations and there is such an effort to try to deliver that fair and balanced product to you not only at Fox but especially at NPR and NPR labors under I think the burden people say oh you guys have been liberal for years you came out of so many college communities you were a leftist back in the Vietnam War and all that and of course the work that was done by the likes of Daniel Schorr during the war to get yours and all the rest but you know to my mind if you look at the listenership surveys it's a third conservative third self-identified as liberal
and a third identified as independent. But the image of NPR I must agree with what you said is much more liberal. Well one that could really help. I mean if they just got. Why semi conservative commentator Besides Daniel Schorr. I mean when you're only going to hear Daniel Schorr there's just no doubt that all you're getting in it is liberal analysts. Oh that's interesting because you know so many people would say that Daniel Schorr was a liberal so I'm interested that you think of Daniel and his commentary as more conservative and I didn't say that no I didn't say that I said Oh you only have that you know are you a liberal. Oh I see your point. Oh I understand. But Daniel Schorr I get yeah I agree. I understand your point and something I will conveyed to people back at NPR so thanks for that call. OK thanks Nicole we only have a couple minutes left. Has a lot of ground we can't cover. One of the earlier callers asked the question what would Thurgood Marshall think about you know the current policy with regard to Iraq et cetera. I do know that you know I'm sure you talked to him about this you're right about in the book how
in his later years in the Supreme Court the court was swinging way back to the right and he was very disturbed about that and and I guess you know there are all these issues the death penalty privacy Miranda when she was involved in that have since way back to the right. And so I'm not sure you know he would how he would feel about the direction of the court since he has passed away almost 10 years ago. But certainly he he would be disappointed. Oh I think that he was disappointed when he was alive I mean he felt that the the rancorous court was in fact undoing much of what had been done by the Warren court. And you know he was not a big fan even of Warren Burger when burger comes in as a replacement for Rehnquist and through those years and he felt as if he was being pushed more and more to the left and the court was moving more and more to the right but toward the end there where you have cases dealing with race and you have more and more of this appeal to color blindness and what he thought was a refusal to see the reality that we are extremely color conscious society. He felt that there was that that the court
was losing touch with Riyadh so he. In a sense isolated himself over to the far left wing of the Supreme Court with his very good friend Bill Brennan. So you have these two very liberal justices on this court that was moving more and more to the right led by Rehnquist Scalia. And so I don't think there's any question Marshall would say that you know he was riding toward the end writing his dissents almost in isolation and writing them for future generations when he hopes that the pendulum will swing back at least to the center. We're going to have to leave it there since we're out of time but I will suggest to folks a couple of things first of all they can look for the book Thurgood Marshall American revolutionary by our guest Juan Williams The book is published by three rivers press and it surely would be found in bookstores and libraries. And also if you'd like to hear more from Juan Williams on Thurgood Marshall he will be speaking tonight at 7 o'clock at the full longer auditorium on the campus of the University of Illinois and this is the inaugural event of the university's 50th
- Producing Organization
- WILL Illinois Public Media
- Contributing Organization
- WILL Illinois Public Media (Urbana, Illinois)
- AAPB ID
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/16-g44hm52z6f).
- Juan Williams, Senior correspondent at National Public Radio, and author of the book Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary Host: Jack Brighton
- Talk Show
- Biography; Civil Rights; Law; thurgood marshall; Civil Rights; brown v board of education
- Media type
Guest: Williams, Juan
Host: Brighton, Jack
Producer: Brighton, Jack
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: focus030929b.mp3 (Illinois Public Media)
Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: focus030929b.wav (Illinois Public Media)
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Focus; Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary,” 2003-09-29, WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 10, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-g44hm52z6f.
- MLA: “Focus; Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary.” 2003-09-29. WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 10, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-g44hm52z6f>.
- APA: Focus; Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary. Boston, MA: WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-g44hm52z6f