Thurgood Marshall Speech Essay

essay B

Get Full Essay

Get access to this section to get all the help you need with your essay and educational goals.

Get Access

Thurgood Marshall delivered a speech on “The Legal Attack to Secure Civil Rights,” at the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People Wartime Conference, in Chicago, Illinois, during July 1944. In the speech Marshall gives an overview of antidiscrimination law and expresses the importance of understanding the laws in place to protect the civil rights of black people, by enforcing the civil rights statues.

In the speech he outlines solutions for various forms of discrimination and stresses the importance of people bringing their complaints to the attention of lawyers’ so that federal officials are made to enforce the statues set forth. In Thurgood Marshall’s speech at the NAACP Wartime Conference, he maintains that a legal strategy is necessary to secure full civil rights and that blacks in particular, must avail themselves of statutes of the United States to protect their fundamental rights as free American citizens. Many people know Thurgood Marshall as the first African American Supreme Court justice.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1908, Marshall was raised in segregation and believed himself to be a Southerner. Upon graduation from law school he opened a practice in Baltimore. With limited opportunities for African Americans during the Depression, he became member of the local NAACP branch in an attempt to spread his name in the community. From 1938 and into the early 1960’s Marshall, beginning at the age of 32, served as the chief attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and directed litigation for the advancement of legal rights for African Americans.

He argued several civil rights cases before the Supreme Court, with the most famous case as a lawyer for the NAACP being, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. This case was the corner stone of desegregation in public schools. The Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” did not pertain to public education, because separate could never be truly equal. His victories as a lawyer for the NAACP broke the color line by overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine.

Marshall was confirmed as the nation’s first African American Supreme Court justice in 1967, where he served until his retirement in 1991. He died in 1993, at the age of 84. At the Wartime Conference, early on in Thurgood Marshalls speech, he expresses the importance of antidiscrimination laws and the significance of all people understanding statues in order to protect their fundamental civil rights as American citizens. He explains the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution and defines their significance to protect the rights of all free Black people.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution passed in the senate, April 1864 and adopted into law December 6, 1865; the amendment abolished the existence of slavery and involuntary servitude within the United States. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified July 1868, and defined United States Citizenship for anyone born or naturalized in the United States. Additionally, the amendment prohibited any action denying any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law and no person could be denied equal protection of the law.

By February 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment has been ratified, establishing equal voting rights for all United States citizens and citizens cannot be denied that right based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Beyond knowing the provisions to the Constitution, Marshall made those attending the speech aware that all blacks must be familiar with the Federal “Civil Rights Statutes,” these include several Acts of Congress, such as the Civil Rights Act as well as, additional statutes in various sections of the United States Code.

These statutes are important in that they protect the rights of individual citizens against private persons, as well as public officers. The Civil Rights Statutes provided rights to all Americans, although they were of specific significance to Blacks in that the statutes provided the only legal protection Blacks had for recourse against those that denied them their rights. Marshall also pointed out that many officials, of both state and federal governments were reluctant to protect the rights of Blacks.

He goes on to acknowledge the difficulty to enforce the rights of the people when the statue is clear; although, it is nearly impossible to secure enforcement if there any doubt to the statute and whether it applies to a specific situation. Thurgood Marshall makes the message clear to those attending the Wartime Conference, that a legal strategy is necessary to obtain full civil rights. Thurgood Marshall is a man of law, he knows and understands the rights of people and encourages the enforcement of the laws set by the United States to prosecute individuals who willfully interfere with the rights of other individuals.

This is why he believes it is imperative for all Blacks to be thoroughly familiar with the rights guaranteed them by United States, so they can insist that their fundamental rights as Americans are protected. The point of the Civil Rights Statutes was to place the African American race, in respect to civil rights, on the same level as with Whites. This made the rights and responsibilities, civil and criminal of both Blacks and Whites exactly the same.

Thurgood Marshall acknowledges that although the United States Supreme Court ratified the Civil Rights Act in 1870, more than 70 years later, in the South there were still judges, prosecutors and members of juries that often refused to follow the provisions. Marshall also acknowledges that often Blacks themselves were hesitant to avail themselves protection as granted by the United States Constitution. Marshall’s message to the NAACP community is that it is necessary to carry-out the legal strategy in the fight against discrimination of Blacks.

Systematically excluding them from jury service and refusing them the right to vote is a clear violation of their civil rights. Marshall goes on to say, “The responsibility for enforcement of the civil provisions for the rights of Blacks rests solely with the individual. ” He encourages the people to make full use of these statues so that equality can be a reality for all people of color. Marshall address the issue of segregation of residence by race, whereby private owners band together to prevent Black occupancy of particular neighborhoods.

This was a growing issue throughout the country at the time. During the speech he laid out the legal ground-work for the people pertaining to the NAACP “all-out attack on restrictive covenants. ” The Housing Authority insists they will maintain separate but equal facilities, and the NAACP maintained that separate facilities are never equal in all respects. The NAACP was in favor of public housing but was opposed to segregation within public housing and was preparing a legal course of action.

Marshall, in the speech closing, expressed the importance of additional legislation to enforce both state and federal civil statutes, as well as, continuing to demand justice for statutes already in place. He again reminded the people that, “Persons who deny to us our civil rights should be brought to justice now. Many believe the time is ‘ripe’ to discriminate against” Blacks. “All right then, the time is always ‘ripe’ to bring them to justice. The responsibility for the enforcement of the statues rests with every American citizen regardless of race or color. ”

Get instant access to
all materials

Become a Member
unlock