Knowledge is Power Series: Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall image
(Image from Google)

Given the recent events, I thought it was important to remind everyone of Thurgood Marshall, our first black American and POC judge to serve on the Supreme Court.

Marshall was a lawyer and activist prior to the bench. He was part of the group responsible for helping break down segregation in the Deep South and even as he climbed up the ladder, was always prepared to defend egalitarian and liberal principles of social justice and equality before the law.

Even later in his career, as a supreme court judge, Marshall was vocal in speaking truth to power, such as his scathing critique of so-called American exceptionalism at its bicentennial celebrations in 1987. Here is an excerpt of what he said that day:

“For a sense of the evolving nature of the Constitution we need look no further than the first three words of the document’s preamble: ‘We the People.” When the Founding Fathers used this phrase in 1787, they did not have in mind the majority of America’s citizens. “We the People” included, in the words of the Framers, “the whole Number of free Persons.” United States Constitution, Art. 1, 52 (Sept. 17, 1787). On a matter so basic as the right to vote, for example, Negro slaves were excluded, although they were counted for representational purposes at threefifths each. Women did not gain the right to vote for over a hundred and thirty years. The 19th Amendment (ratified in 1920).

These omissions were intentional. The record of the Framers’ debates on the slave question is especially clear: The Southern States acceded to the demands of the New England States for giving Congress broad power to regulate commerce, in exchange for the right to continue the slave trade. The economic interests of the regions coalesced: New Englanders engaged in the “carrying trade” would profit from transporting slaves from Africa as well as goods produced in America by slave labor. The perpetuation of slavery ensured the primary source of wealth in the Southern States.”

You can read the rest by clicking here.

 

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