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Thurgood Marshall

Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court
Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 - January 24, 1993) was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the Court's 96th justice and its first African-American justice.

QuotesEdit

  • Lawlessness is lawlessness. Anarchy is anarchy is anarchy. Neither race nor color nor frustration is an excuse for either lawlessness or anarchy.
    • Speech at the national convention of Alpha Phi Alpha, St. Louis, Missouri, August 15, 1966, as reported by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 17, 1966, p. 1.
  • If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds.
  • At a time in our history when the streets of the Nation's cities inspire fear and despair, rather than pride and hope, it is difficult to maintain objectivity and concern for our fellow citizens. But, the measure of a country's greatness is its ability to retain compassion in time of crisis. No nation in the recorded history of man has a greater tradition of revering justice and fair treatment for all its citizens in times of turmoil, confusion, and tension than ours. This is a country which stands tallest in troubled times, a country that clings to fundamental principles, cherishes its constitutional heritage, and rejects simple solutions that compromise the values that lie at the roots of our democratic system.
  • The experience of Negroes in America has been different in kind, not just in degree, from that of other ethnic groups. It is not merely the history of slavery alone, but also that a whole people were marked as inferior by the law. And that mark has endured.
  • I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever “fixed” at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite “The Constitution,” they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago.
  • America must get to work. In the chilled climate in which we live, we must go against the prevailing winds. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred, and the mistrust. We must dissent from a nation that buried its head in the sand waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education, or hope. We must dissent from the poverty of vision and timeless absence of moral leadership. We must dissent, because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.
    • Speech delivered on September 6, 1990, before the Annual Judicial Conference of the Second Circuit, quoted in Supreme Justice Speeches and Writings Thurgood Marshall. Edited by J. Clay Smith, Jr. (2002).
  • The legal system can force open doors, and sometimes-even knock down walls, but it cannot build bridges. That job belongs to you and me. The country can't do it. Afro and White, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, our fates are bound together. We can run from each other, but we cannot escape each other. We will only attain freedom if we learn to appreciate what is different, and muster the courage to discover what is fundamentally the same. America's diversity offers so much richness and opportunity. Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences, which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side. We shall have liberty for all.
    • Speech delivered on September 6, 1990, before the Annual Judicial Conference of the Second Circuit, quoted in Supreme Justice Speeches and Writings Thurgood Marshall. Edited by J. Clay Smith, Jr. (2002).
  • [T]here's no difference between a white snake and a black snake. They'll both bite.
  • MIsquote: White snake, black snake: They both bite.

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