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Supreme Justice

Thurgood Marshall
Edited by J. Clay Smith, Jr.
360 pages, 6 illustrations, $39.95 cloth


“Supreme Justice” assembles the public presentations, occasional writings, speeches, and interviews of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall over a period of seven decades, from the 1930s to the 1990s. These texts, compiled by J. Clay Smith, Jr., Professor of Law at Howard University School of Law, are indispensable to understand fully the complexities of Marshall’s work as a practicing lawyer, civil rights advocate for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, federal judge, and the first African American appointed Solicitor General of the United States and Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

The early speeches focus on one of the most important periods of Marshall’s life, culminating in his arguments before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.

In the later speeches and writings Marshall comes to life as a teacher, leader, and strategist, explaining, preaching, and cajoling audiences to stand up for their rights.

“Supreme Justice” reveals Marshall as a dogged opponent of unequal schools and a staunch proponent of the protection of black people from violence and the death penalty. Through his own words we see the genius of a man with an ability to inspire diverse crowds in clear language and see him also demonstrate his powers of persuasion in formal settings outside the court. His writings enhance our understanding of his groundbreaking advocacy and reveal the names of men and women of all races who made significant contributions leading to Brown v. Board of Education and beyond.

—University of Pennsylvania Press

Originally published on April 17, 2003