As the nation celebrates the 95th anniversary of Black History Month, the Galveston County Coalition for Justice remains adamant that African American history should be taught throughout the year. It’s past time for African American history to be fully incorporated into the nation’s public school system.
Twenty-eight years ago, I wrote a guest column entitled (“Marshall earned name ‘Mr. Civil Rights,’” The Galveston Daily News, Jan. 30, 1993). The purpose for that column was to memorialize the life and legacy of the first African American to sit on the United States Supreme Court.
Twenty-eight years later, fascist dictators all over the world stood up and cheered as they watched American terrorist groups attack the heart of democracy for fascism. That treacherous act compelled me to write (“We need three things to keep our democratic republic,” The Daily News, Jan. 28).
Throughout the ancient conflict between race vs. fascism, I thought about Marshall and his struggle defending a schizophrenic Constitution that began with the phrase “We the People,” while simultaneously ignoring the African American slaves.
The Constitution didn’t even mention the word slave until after a bloody Civil War and a heated debate over the passing of the 14th Amendment, 79 years later.
Marshall’s introduction to the Constitution came as a punishment for a schoolyard prank. His youthful indiscretion earned him an assignment to read the Constitution and turn in a book report within one week. Marshall went beyond just turning in a book report; he recited from memory the entire Constitution that contained 4,543 words, including the Founders’ signatures.
After graduating from Howard University Law School, Marshall set out to challenge racial discrimination like King Sisyphus rolling an immense stone up a mountain at what seemed to be an impossible task. But, unlike King Sisyphus, Marshall had help to roll the stone of absolute justice to the mountain top.
In 1940, Marshall was appointed chief council for the NAACP. He developed a viable theory that racial discrimination and segregation were unconstitutional. Winning 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court, he established a legal record that to this day stands unparalleled in American judicial history.
Marshall’s crowning victory came with an end to segregation in public schools, beginning with Sipuel vs. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma and ending with Brown vs. the Board of Education cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
On June 12, 1967, standing in the White House rose garden, President Johnson announced his nominations of Thurgood Marshall, the grandson of a slave to the U.S. Supreme Court.
It’s impossible to cover all of Justice Marshall’s achievements within the compass of one commentary; however, in courtroom after courtroom he helped to bring about a society in which “we the people“ could become a reality and not merely a hypnotizing phrase for certain people to exploit.
Justice Thurgood Marshall was a patriotic rebel on the bench who really loved this country and our democracy. That’s why he deserves to be called “Mr. Civil Rights,” forever.