Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America
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Over the course of his forty-year career, Thurgood Marshall brought down the separate-but-equal doctrine, integrated schools, and not only fought for human rights and human dignity but also made them impossible to deny in the courts and in the streets. In this galvanizing biography, award-winning author Wil Haygood uses the framework of the dramatic, contentious five-day Senate hearing to confirm Marshall as the first African-American Supreme Court justice, to weave a provocative and moving look at Marshall’s life as well as at the politicians, lawyers, activists, and others who shaped—or desperately tried to stop—the civil rights movement. An authoritative account of one of the most transformative justices of the twentieth century, Showdown makes clear that it is impossible to overestimate Thurgood Marshall’s lasting influence on the racial politics of our nation.
Joseph Califano shared with me their memories of the day inside the White House that President Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court. 1 “Let the South have”: Goodheart, 1861, 315. 2 “fraught with consequences”: Goodwin, Team of Rivals, 465. 3 “the Negro support”: Marshall Oral History, 1, LBJL. 4 “The nastiest mail”: Califano, interview by author. 5 “I want to do”: CNN.com, Feb. 25, 2011. 6 “Thurgood, I’m nominating”: Alexander, interview by author. 7 “He
move. The marine guards looked at them quizzically. The rebellion was under way. The Negro sailors announced they would do any other task the navy asked of them, but they were not loading an ammunition ship, because they felt it was not safe. The men were told the consequences of their actions. Navy officers stared at them, stunned. Finally, about 100 of the men agreed to load the ship, but 258 refused. The sailors who refused were taken to the prison barge. “Now, the slightest provocation, we
Eastland, would schedule hearings. Through back channels, he sent word he’d schedule them when he was damn ready. Days and days passed. Eastland was going to make them stay around Washington and endure the hot, sticky summer heat. And to hell with their planned summer vacations. Finally, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that the hearings for Thurgood Marshall’s nomination to the Supreme Court would take place beginning July 13, 1967. In explaining the delay, Eastland claimed he had to
from being a small-town Arkansas prosecutor, had even held on through the years. But he held on and asked for no one’s sympathy. JOHN LITTLE MCCLELLAN was born in another century, in 1896, a mere thirty-three years after slavery’s end. His grandfather had fought for the Confederacy. John McClellan himself had been so precocious that he had gotten admitted to the Arkansas Bar at the age of seventeen. His father, Isaac McClellan, had implored the legislature to pass a special bill that would waive
I would say that I have great faith in the ability of our country to meet any emergency, and I— The senator, perturbed, cut Marshall off. MCCLELLAN: I am not asking what the country can meet … I am trying to determine your attitude or sense, realization, of the danger confronting this country with respect to this enemy of our security. Now it was out in the open: “this enemy.” This is what Chairman Eastland wanted to hear; this is what he liked. The black kids—Negro, colored, whatever they