Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice

Larry S. Gibson. Prometheus, $28 (390p) ISBN 978-1-61614-571-2
University of Maryland law professor Gibson highlights the formative years of the revered African-American civil rights lawyer and Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993), in this straightforward professional and personal biography. Organized linearly, Gibson traces Marshall’s family background and academic path, and then builds on this picture by detailing Marshall’s early professional life, during which time the young lawyer engages in a dogged, pragmatic, and principled fight against the overt racism then pervasive in Southern culture. White society’s comfort with brutal, uncontained prejudice and its hostility to change is shocking and makes for riveting reading. Among the blatant practices Marshall and his colleagues challenge are segregated schools, systemically lower pay for African-American teachers, bars on the admittance of African-Americans to professional schools, the toleration of lynching, and a justice system providing little justice for African-Americans. The writing is unadorned and accessible, and augmented by numerous newspaper articles and photos. Marshall’s role as the first African-American Justice of the Supreme Court has rightly made him an emblematic figure, and Gibson demonstrates that Marshall’s early years were not mere harbingers of a future place among civil rights giants, but by themselves qualified him for a place in history. Gibson succeeds in making Marshall’s story immediate and vital. Agent: Jean V. Naggar Literary. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/15/2012
Release date: 12/01/2012
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