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Dream Makers, Dream Breakers: The World of Justice Thurgood Marshall.


In the wake of the controversial release of former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Thurgood Marsall's private papers, it is timely that two major biographies examining his judicial career have reached bookstores. The most ambitious of the two, Dream Makers, Dream Breakers: The World of Justice Thurgood Marshall by Carl T. Rowan, an award-winning columnist and long-time friend of Justice Marshall, is a personal, close-up view. It poignantly describes Marshall as a combative civil rights attorney who worked indefatigably to end American apartheid, as well as a courageous judge who left an indelible mark on America's racial politics.

By the time he was appointed chief counsel of the NAACP in 1938, Justice Marshall acquired the nickname, "Mr. Civil Rights." And long before Dr. King began desegregating southern lunch counters, the future Supreme Court Justice led a series of legal battles to both loosen Jim Crow's grip and to help to end legal barriers against minorities throughout the nation.

The great-grandson of a slave (after whom he was named), "Thoroughgood" Marshall was born in 1908 into an insular world where blacks were disenfranchised and despised and compulsory segregation was the law of the land. [Marshall shortened his name to "Thurgood" when he was a child.] For example, when Marshall graduated from college, he was denied admittance into the University of the Maryland's law school. But this denial, Rowan shows, spurred Marshall into becoming a fighter for equal opportunity and justice.

We glimpse Marshall at different stages. First, as a young NAACP lawyer--armed with the Constituion--chipping away at the mountain of legal discrimination. Later we see a disillusioned Justice, butting heads with a right-ward-titling Court, writing disserts laced with bitterness.

It the book has a weakness, it is Rowan's tendency to inject himself into the account. But his intrusions don't bog the reader down nor ruin what is a fine biography. I count it as an appropriate tribute to the first black to sit on the nation's highest tribunal.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Robinson, Frederick
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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