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Oral history interview with Thurgood Marshall, 1980

Creator: Marshall, Thurgood, 1908-1993
Project: Oral history interview with Thurgood Marshall,
(see all project interviews)
Phys. Desc. :Transcript: 74 pages Sound recording: 1 sound cassette
Location: Columbia Center for Oral History
Full CLIO record >>

Biographical Note

Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908-January 24, 1993) was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended Lincoln University and went on to Howard University School of Law where, in 1933, he graduated first in his class. Marshall worked as a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and successfully argued numerous civil rights cases before the Supreme Court during his time with the organization. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy nominated Marshall to the Second Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals where he remained until 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to be the United States Solicitor General. In 1967, Marshall was nominated and confirmed to serve on the United States Supreme Court as an Associate Justice, a position he held until his retirement in 1991.

Scope and Contents

In this 1980 interview conducted by Thomas B. Buell, Thurgood Marshall discusses the Port Chicago Mutiny of 1944, including: his opinions on the outcome of the case; why the charge of mutiny was exaggerated; the pamphlet issued by the NAACP about the case; and the involvement of Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal. He offers a defense of Forrestal's character and his personal efforts to protect Forrestal's reputation throughout the case. More generally, Marshall describes the United States military’s use of African American soldiers as scapegoats as well as the rampant racial discrimination in the WWII Pacific theater under General Douglas MacArthur. Marshall explains his tactics throughout the years to cope with the grief of racial discrimination in both his personal life and career. The final pages of this transcript include Buell’s notes and impressions of Marshall and the interview.

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