tv Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP CSPAN November 27, 2014 9:02am-9:55am EST
future. historians and law professors recently gathered at the university of baltimore law school to discuss the film "mr. civil rights -- thurgood marshall and the naacp." they explored marshall's early law career, as well as his work in the south to expand voting rights for african-americans. we'll also hear about his arguments before the u.s. supreme court and how he became the first african-american appointed to the highest court in the land. this program lasts about 50 minutes. let me introduce our panelists. you've already met to my far left, mick colette, the producers of "mr. civil rights." distinguished producer of documentary films. we're going to hear from mick about what led him to make this film. to my immediate left, professor kimberly crenshaw is a distinguished professor of law both at ucla and columbia university. professor crenshaw teaches civil
rights and other courses in critical race studies and constitutional law. she's been a leader in the critical race theory movement. and in fact, founded a think tank devoted to the study of issues of race and gender entitled the african-american policy forum. she's published extensively in this area. a graduate of cornell and harvard law school and has a masters degree from the university of wisconsin. to my immediate right, larry gibson is distinguished professor at the university of maryland school of law. professor gibson is the author of a book that i hope many of you have purchased and will read and it's called "young thurgood." a wonderful biography of justice marshall's years growing up here in baltimore and beginning to practice law here. professor gibson himself grew up in baltimore, attended howard university as under graduate, then earned his law degree from l columbia. the first african-american law
professor at the university of virginia before accepting a faculty position here in maryland. he's been engaged in many civic activities in maryland and served for a time in the u.s. justice department as u.s. deputy attorney general and director of the national economic crimes project. to my far right is my colleague here at the university of baltimore school of law, jose anderson. jose is one of our finest professors. has taught here since 1989. teaches criminal law, criminal procedure and trial practice. before joining the faculty, jose practiced law here in baltimore, served for nine years in the maryland public defenders office, supervised the appellate division there. he represents clients in major death penalty cases, criminal cases all the way up to the supreme court. he's taught here and at the wharton school and has received awards for his teaching, scholarship and mentorship. i'll begin the questioning of this panel. then i would invite people who
have questions to come to the microphone. i'll turn it over to the audience as we progress but i want to start by asking mick, the filmmaker, what brought him to this subject. why thurgood marshall. how did you get from hubert humphrey to thurgood marshall. >> that was actually a direct route. what happened was we interviewed roger wilkins in the hubert humphrey film. they were friends. when we were close to the end of the film i was looking for a new subject and i called roger an said i'd like to do a film on your uncle roy. he said my uncle roy was just straight, he did all kinds of wonderful work but he was sort of a mid-range sort of businessman type. he was a suit and he just -- it's not that exciting a story. if you want to do a really exciting story do thurgood marshall. the reason he said that was he grew up with the two of them riding subways in new york, knew them well as a little boy and just loved thurgood marshall and
thought it would be a great story. that was the connection. thurgood marshall, supreme court justice, knew vice president humphrey. what is the connection that way. that's kind of how it happened. the reason i wanted to do it is because i like to tell when i can untold stories -- there's about half-a-dozen now, four or five -- untold stories about heem who are heroes who no one knows about who continue to shape our lives. this story up to brown is really an untold story, at least in film. there's been a couple -- lot of great books but in film it hasn't been done. i like to tell those kind of untold stories. that's the reason i did it. also when i first started learning about him and reading about him i was inspired by his amazing courage. i mean courage that just -- it's hard to believe. and his resolve, the fact that he just stuck to it. as i said before, he would say i'm not the courageous one. he said i would go into the south and these people -- i went
down to help them and i could take a train back to harlem but they have to stay here. they're the courageous ones. that's what he always said. >> so it was an untold story certainly to a wider audience but indeed there was scholarship and biography. i'm sure you quickly discovered larry gibson's biography on williams and other biographers who appear in the film. professor gibson, what was new after you wrote "young thurgood," what did we learn in addition about this amazing man through mick's film? >> mick had quite a challenge here. so that's a good question and i'll answer that. but just think of the challenge he had. there have been four major full-life biographies of thurgood marshall. there is my book that focuses on his formative years. then there are several, many other, smaller books. i know of about 40 books about
thurgood marshall. he's been portrayed in the film by james earl jones, by sidney poitier. lawrence fishburn has portrayed him both on the stage and in film. so mick had a challenge here, but i think he met it. as i was there, i've listed six items -- i'll list them quickly -- that i think are major contributions of this film to the corpus of thurgood marshall material. first of all, the -- i've seen other mentions of the danger. but i think you present in this film the danger, the physical hazard, that thurgood marshall faced in a way that i've not seen written about or presented
by film. i mean the way you put it together. it was really palpable. that's a major contribution. that, and his courage. secondly, the trip south. it's mentioned in some other books but here the central role that that played in shaping this young man. before this trip, thurgood marshall had not been south of virginia. so this exposure to the deep south really had a dramatic impact on him and this is the first time i've seen that presented as clearly. a third major contribution is the part -- material in here about the teacher pay. these were absolutely the central part of the beginning of his work at the naacp. the first ten years. he did more teacher pay cases in more parts of the south than anything else. but there's so little written about it.
i think it is because there are no supreme court decisions. there are only a couple of appellate decisions. these were decisions, lawsuits in about 12 states where he doubled the income of the largest professional group in most black communities -- the teachers. and it became the vehicle by which they grew the naacp. i was so pleased to see that in this film for the first time, that series of litigation -- series is highlighted. the fourth item that, again, i'm surprised that no one's really spent much time on, is the connection between the harlem renaissance and thurgood's activities in the south. we think of him traveling through the south, but you present it and i think more about it than that, that coming back to new york and sort of almost, renewed in new york through the vibrance of that,
and some of the entertainers and the people that he knew. then he would go back into the south is presented in a way that i haven't seen in any of the literature. world war i. there's been much written about thurgood marshall's involvement with the korean war because of that dramatic -- the dramatic encounters he had with douglas macarthur. but there was this major activity on the part of the naacp representing soldiers during world war ii. i said world war i. during world war ii. not only discrimination by people in the military, but particularly discrimination against soldiers in communities adjacent to military bases. there were so many of the american military installations in the deep south. i'm so glad that in this film
you touch on that. and the final is smith versus alwright. throughout the latter part of his career, thurgood would frequent said that he could not decide what was his most important, whether it was brown versus board of education, the school case, or smith versus alwright, the texas voting rights case. and if you look at the way he wrote and talked about it, i bet you that if you had said you could only pick one, you have agot to pick one most important case, it would have been smith versed alwright. i'm really pleased that this film brings that case forward. those are some -- and there are others -- where the combination of the ability to use film and to put an emphasis on things that you've helped us a lot in understanding thurgood marshall. >> one other theme i thought was so interesting that's developed in the film is the relationship between thurgood marshall and charles anderson houston.
jose anderson studied the life of charles anderson houston and in fact will publish a book about him. jose, talk a little bit about the relationship. you have the student and the dean of a law school. then at some point they become colleagues and partners in this incredible endeavor. did they always sort of retain some element of student and teacher, or did that fall away? >> well, i think that they were continually working together. marshall was a student that houston took notice of because of his sharp mind, his ability to be flexible, his willingness to do everything from getting sandwiches for the legal team, all the way up to challenging the brilliant charles houston about points he wanted to make in the case, and houston admired this, and therefore took thurgood under his wing and made him his sort of most trusted understudy in the legal work.
and indeed i think identified marshall as someone who had the personality to actually carry forward the work of the naacp. the personality that was needed to do the fund raising and to communicate the message and to engage in the public relations that was necessary to advance the agency. but at the same time, to be able to do the high-quality legal work that was necessary to litigate the cases. and so that was a rare combination of qualities and houston recognized he had them all and actually turned the organization over to him and then continued to work with him for another decade as a private lawyer cooperating with the agency. so their relationship stayed strong until the end of houston's life in 1950. in fact, in the hundreds and hundreds of letters that i've reviewed between the two of them and about conflicts during the legal campaign where others were
writing or complaining about one thing or the other, not one word of criticism between the two men about each other to anyone or to each other. so i think that that's very important. >> professor kimberly crenshaw -- not moving from history and looking forward -- you're someone who has studied race in society in so many ways and so many perspectives. could you speculate, if thurgood marshall were a litigator today and he surveyed the civil rights landscape, where would he be putting his energies? what cases would he be bringing? would he be looking at over incarceration? would he be looking at police brutality? would he be in ferguson, missouri? would he be elsewhere? the administration of the death penalty which obviously was something he was involved in when he was practicing. what do you think? >> well, i think clearly if thurgood marshall were a
litigator today, his -- among his most significant concerns would be the loss of so much of the civil rights infrastructure that an earlier thurgood marshall would have litigated and put together. i think one of the things that's so fascinating and moving about the film is that we get a sense of what that infrastructure was, how he went about creating it, what an extraordinary person it took to both be a trial lawyer and an appellate lawyer and to take both those sensibilities into the supreme court to build the rule structure that is necessary to support things like expansive voting rights, to support things like allowing city councils to actually create affirmative action programs that break in groups of people who had been locked out, that would allow local school boards to have more control and authority over the way the desegregation was going to happen. so he had a structural view
about which rules needed to be made so that people on the local level could actually use them to bring about transformation. that's what's being lost now. i think he would be worried that at a higher structural level, the gutting of the voting rights act, for example, the gutting of affirmative action through heavier rules and responsibilities on the part of universities to prove that they've tried everything and only at the end of trying everything could they possibly take ruse into -- take race into account. all of these would be concerns of his because they trick down to the local level to make it exceedingly difficult for attorneys to actually galvanize social change on the ground. so i think number one, what he would be concerned about is trying to mount an effort at the legislative level to correct for some of the cases -- some of the cases that the supreme court has used to gut existing civil
rights law. i don't think he would have let the voting rights act be gutted without having heard from organized effort to speak back to this. i don't think he would have thought that it would be off of the table to continue to talk about affirmative action. he was a staunch defender of the idea that there are consequences to our history, and if we don't have race-conscious means to deal with it, the burdens will rest with those who are least able to pay for them. so i think he would have been very concerned about the consequence. the other thing that's important to say around to reckon with is that, a thurgood marshall couldn't have gotten appointed to the supreme court today. that we were able to accomplish something nearly 50 years ago that could not be done today. that's something for us to really i think ponder and worry about, that someone as transformative as thurgood marshall, who changed the face
of law in the 20th century could not be appointed to be one of the individuals who was assigned to interpret that law. that's really a significant development. >> yes. i mean it is hard to imagine anybody with the kind of -- the breadth of experience as you say, as a trial lawyer, a street lawyer -- i mean he was involved, as larry gibson tells us in "young thurgood" in divorce cases, in business disputes, every sort of kind of legal dispute here in baltimore. and then argues dozens of cases in the appellate courts, including in the supreme court. i mean nobody before has brought that breadth of experience to the supreme court. it is hard to imagine anybody will in the future because today lawyers are more specialized. right? let me ask the panel -- we have such an expert panel here, people who have really thought about thurgood marshall. was he an angry man? mick told us about his humor. did the humor mask anger of all the indignities of segregation
in baltimore as he was growing up? larry gibson? >> that's a fascinating question. first of all, the answer is no. i'm not sure why. it may surprise folks because most photographs of him, he's sort of scowling. thurgood marshall wore life loosely. he had a sense of humor. he got from his father a kind of way of thinking about racial matters in a sort of humorous fashion. no, i think he was focused. i think he knew what he was about. but he was very confident in himself. he had this command of the language. so i would not describe him as an angry person. part of it i think is that he was kind of a product of maryland. you know, we're kind of a middle
state in so many respects. of course, we're frequently called the most northern southern state, the most southern northern state. so we always had this ambivalent attitude here about race. and so as the film indicates, his neighborhood was one where he had many encounters with whites and the like. he had had very decent experiences with white employers. and so thurgood marshall i think saw injustice and set about correcting it and used his home situation here. keep in mind now, the first kind of three major steps that he takes towards building this infrastructure are all here in maryland. the mary case. well, if he was a little further
south he wouldn't have won that case probably. then he brings his first high school case. he loses it. it's the baltimore county high school case. but that begins the process that leads ultimately to brown. and then the teacher pay cases. his first success there were three counties here. first montgomery county. that case settles. then calvin county. then ultimately the first federal court decision was in another county. he saw in this state a southern state but some potential. and he used it and then he was just a natural diplomat. as the film points out, he used charm. he had this ability to talk at any level. he had such command of the language that he was like an automatic focusing lens.
he could walk with kings and yet not lose the common touch. he could talk with the average uneducated person. but it just -- his language and his tone and his pace changed geographically. his assistant initially thought he got upset when he would see marshall talking with judges and lawyers in the deep south. and he had thought for a while that thurgood was sort of faking it. no, this was an automatically focusing lens of a man with amazing control of the language and of his speaking. and it just happened automatically. >> right. others thought about marshall as humor masking something? anyone else? mick, based on your -- >> i don't think it was masking it. i think he used it as a way to deal with it. it was a weapon that he used. i know he had an arsenal of these weapons that he used to
not get angry. i think he had angry moments. i don't think he was an angry man but he certainly had angry ploem moments. he had to have those. he kept his anger in check with things like trying to be pragmatic, seeing as i have to change the laws and then these people have to follow. i think he saw his sense of humor as laugh or cry. right? i have to deal with this. i don't see it a is a mask as much as a defense. >> you know, i would say that whether he was angry or not. he had every reason to be angry. so let's just establish that. but i do think that towards the end of his career, one did get a sense of deep frustration. you could read it in the lines of his opinion, a delicately structured civil rights infrastructure that was being taken apart bit by bit by bit.
>> no question. he and justice brennan dissenting case after case. >> case after case. and seeing a story about what the lesson of our history is that is actually the opposite of what the reality is. so i could only imagine how he would have responded to the parents-involved case that basically effectively ended most school desegregation as we know it. and the argument was that white school children and black school children were harmed in the same way by segregation. namely, they both were sent to schools on the basis of their race. so linda brown is harmed in the same way as the little kids they're walking by who are safely ensconced in superior schools. that kind of vision was starting while he was on the supreme court. and one got sense that he saw the handwriting on the wall that this entire infrastructure that had been so painstakingly
created was starting to come apart. and the most hurtful thing that i think -- because he said something about it. i think we as a civil rights constituency were so taken by how easy he made it seem that we thought another african-american judge was going to do the same thing. and he gave us a warning at the end saying, you know, doesn't matter what color the reptile is, he said. it's all the same. but people didn't hear it. and people ended up supporting an appointment that unraveled what he created. i can't imagine that he would have been happy about that. i can't imagine that this was something that he just took in stride, particularly at the end of his life. >> well, i would like to -- one of the great privileges i had in my career was that he was co-counsel in three cases in the supreme court when he was still sitting as a justice.
and i watched the way that he would elegantly answer questions on really issues that would generate anger, where with great precision he would cut immediately to the practical point of the question. i think that this is how he defused his anger by participating and revealing the absurdity of arguments that could not be supported, that would have outcomes that were not humane in the context of the racial history of our country. i do think that towards the end of his career -- i know one of the cases that i participated in, the last opinion he wrote on the court overturned the precedent that he participated in, case called payne versus tennessee, where in a death penalty case victim impact testimony was reinstated and he was very concerned that we were going to value life based upon the value of the victim. he was very concerned about the possible racial consequences of
that. and he was at that point venting that the civil rights infrastructure, as professor crenshaw discussed, was becoming unraveled. and in fact he writes an obituary to the unraveling where he cites all the cases that are at risk. and so i think he delegated his anger to his pen so that there would be a legacy to continue. but i think that he tried to use humor and precision to unravel the absurdity of those unjust and immoral things that actually have entered into the racial fabric of our conversation in this country and that we yet to have remedy. let me invite members of the audience who have questions or xlents to come up ments to comeo the microphone. please identify yourself.commen microphone. please identify yourself. >> i'm a student at the
university of baltimore. can you hear me now? i'll just talk loud. i want to address my question to professor gibson. because can you expound a little bit more why you feel that thurgood marshall would have chosen smith versus alwright as one of his stellar cases. i've seen a monologue of thurgood marshall. one of our own professors here at the university of baltimore, professor henderson, does an excellent rendition of it. then he gave us copies of your book to take and study. and so i had an opportunity to look at some of the cases that he did hear. so when you said that, it struck a chord with me. i dentally wanted to ask you why. >> yeah. yeah. thurgood would point out that the right to vote, the most powerful tool that a citizen has
the ability to shape the educational power. i think he thought of it primarily as the power of taking away from blacks the ability to exercise political power in the south, affecting everything including their education, smith versus allwright. this was the white primaries excluded blacks from voting in primary elections where the primary election was the election. there was no republican presence of any consequence in the south at that point. and the supreme court had in about three decisions backed this notion that political parties were private entities and that selecting their candidates, the 14th amendment, equal protection clause, didn't apply. but when smith versus allwright
changed that, throughout the south that began -- it didn't stall all of the voting rights that were taken away but it was major matter. one thing about -- i've been thinking about this anger or not. i remember when i first met thurgood marshall, which was 1975. i went to his house late one night to get him to sign an order in a case in which i was handling. i was expecting a very different person. maybe i just got him on a good night. i didn't get there -- i got to his house really late. after 11:00. didn't leave until after 2:00 in the morning. he started talking about growing up in baltimore. i had come to believe that he hated the city. that he didn't -- that he was just kind of a negative, sour person.
he wanted to know about people and places and buildings in baltimore. he was a baltimore colts fan. that was a football team back tle then. and was just simply a different person from what i had expected. now that's 1975. as he got older and his health started to deteriorate, and then there started to be these reversals that has been the mention of some earlier victories. i'm sure all of that had pretty negative impact on him. but as of 1975, he was a much more pleasant person than what i had been led to believe from reading what other people had written about him. >> the question referenced professor henderson, our colleague from the university of baltimore college of public affairs. he is himself a marshall scholar and indeed a performer. he does a one-man show based on
marshall's life. leneal, would you care to come down, and not perform your show, but offer any thoughts that you had have based upon seeing mick's movie? >> thank you, panel. here's my question. first of all, congratulations on a fine, fine film. congratulations to all of you on enlightening us about the many dimensions of thurgood marshall. one thing i think that might be helpful for our university of baltimore students who represent all kinds of disciplines is to speak to the way that marshall put together arguably the most integrated legal team in america at the time and brought expertise from all kinds of disciplines and all kinds of races. i think of charlie black. i think of c. van woodward. kenneth clark. could you seek a little bit to how he orchestrated all of those different pieces in putting these cases together.
thank you. >> thank you. i think that one of the great things about marshall is he had a great example in houston of using all kinds of people to be part of the legal team. he watched charles houston use many white, many jewish lawyers who were working on the naacp to participate in legal cases all throughout country. so it was nothing unusual for him to seek a broad range of people who were oriented to the cause. not just basically the race but the justice that he was trying to seek. and so he would put a team together that could get the job done and that had the ability to see the job through. and so when it came time, for example, jack greenberg, to become the head of the naacp legal team, there was some criticism that, you know, how can jewish lawyer become the head of the black litigation
strategy. well, he took the view that greenberg was qualified to do the job, committed to the job, and also had been part of the foundation of the earlier work that had been -- what had been set apart for the cases that had to be done in the next generation of issues. and so i think he evaluated people clearly on the content of their character and commitment to the cause. and i think that he would consider race to be what would be called an accident of birth. indeed, one of the greatest quotes he ever made was he said that he thought equal protection meant that the poorest blackest child of a share cropper in mississippi when born and drits first breath would have the exact same rights as a rockefeller. i thought no one has ever stated it more beautifully to state that's the ideal of equal protection, that it means really equal for everyone.
>> so i have thought about what it means more than how he did it. as i suggested earlier, and i think the film makes clear, the most significant legal transformations that took place in the 20th century took place because of thurgood marshall and charles hamilton houston. and it took place not at the elite law schools in the country. . wasn't the folks at harvard that figured out the conundrum of equal protection. it wasn't the folks at yale that figured out how to have a national strategy to actually dismantle segregation. it was lawyers, historians, sociologists, that were pulled together at howard law school. now why is that significant. number one, it tells you that the traditional intellectual hierarchies that prevailed at the time, that told us that the smartest, the brightest, the
best were at these elite institutions, were obviously not that smart or bright whether it came to the biggest problems america had at the time, which was racial segregation. they couldn't identify the problem. they couldn't figure out how to wrap their heads around the problem. they didn't particularly care about the problem. and this is the biggest contradiction in our democracy. so the fact that issue spotting and figuring out how to get at it and do it successfully took place way, way off the main road with bei , tells you something about how the main road is actually constituted. so i think the lesson of how he put the team together is that the way that we think teams are put together don't really work out in the way that the hierarchy tells us. you look at what people do. you look at what their capacity is by what they are able to accomplish. and looked at in that way, the best legal team, the best law
school at that time was howard. it was not har vvarharvard. it was not yale. >> that's a great lesson. >> i really enjoyed the film. i'm angela eaves. >> judge. >> judge eaves. >> well, judge angela eaves. and one of the things that -- i guess we all think about thurgood marshall is mr. civil rights and thinking about race relations here in the united states. but would it be easier -- is it even possible to think of where justice marshall would fall in the spectrum of the court with respect to the broader issues of civil rights that face us now. or even first amendment issues like the hobby lobby decision, or even gay rights, same-sex
marriage. is it possible for any of you to extrapolate his views along those lines? >> great question. professor crenshaw. >> well, i think one of the things that what happens because he's such a star with respect to some civil rights that we forget he was a star with respect to all of them, he wasn't just limited to race. so he was libertarian when it came to sexual autonomy. he was one of the first ones to articulate a sliding scale around the equal protection clause when it comes to gender. one of his most significant frames that i thought was, and should be, part of the pantheon decisions about gender had to do with the exclueclusion of womenm registration for the draft. the idea was that if women don't have to fight, you don't need
them to be part of the draft. his point was, that's not the question. the question is do you need to exclude them in order to prepare for the draft. that's a different kind of question. that's a different kind of sensibility. and he was one of the first justices to have that sensibility, particularly before the women arrived. so the idea that we have to wonder -- actually, there is evidence about where justice marshall came down on a whole host of issues having to do with equality, expanding it beyond the traditional parameters around race. >> professor gibson or anderson, any predictions or where justice marshall would be, for example, on the federal right to same-sex marriage? >> i think it is absolutely correct that in the finer sense, he was and person for broadest freedoms. for example, free speech. lots of his -- just independent
of race. just the first amendment. he was very strong. he was opposed throughout his life to the death penalty. not just the death penalty as it related to black people but death penalty generally. it began with some cases that he handled here in maryland. issues related to rights of workers. a big part of his work, beginning a little bit here in baltimore, but then with the naacp, then as a judge dealt with workers rights, vis-a-vis employers. i mean on the full range of what we call progressive issues, he was on the progressive side. i don' hesitancy in thinking that he would be a leader with respect to sexual
freedoms and sexual relationships and just that he was a very strong across-the-board, what we would call a liberal, or libertarian. not sure what the general word is, but -- >> professor anderson? >> i think just an example of probably his perspective on things. he didn't think the government should participate in the private behavior of almost anything where they didn't need to be participating. just remember oral argument once where the police were arguing that they had this urgent need to search a whole house when they are arresting someone downstairs in the living room because there might be somebody upstairs that wanted to come down and hurt the officer. i remember he said, well, don't go upstairs. another question came out on the same line, they said, but, no, the officers really need to make the arrest in a way that they didn't have to fear for what was
going to happen to them in a way that made them feel unsafe. and he would say -- he said, well, arrest them outside. he really did not think that government needed to be vigorously participating in the human experience in a way that limited people and people's choices. i guess from one perspective, the good lord gave them free will so let them exercise it. he did not believe government should be participating in operating in the small details of the lives of people. >> can you see how easy this was? all i had to do was turn the camera on and sit there. so easy. >> there is an art to it. perhaps one more question from the audience. yes. please identify yourself. >> good evening. my name is ron williams. i'm a graduate student in the nfa program, also writing composition instructor.
actually i have a comment and a question because i think it is interesting we talk about anger, particularly we talk about anger in regards to black men. because, really, there is a difference between destructive anger and transformational anger. are we talking about the fact that there is anger when it comes to injustice, but yet when we are talking about these kinds of issues, there's always a concern, well, is is he angry. well, let's have a conversation about transformation and deal with the ills from which that anger springs. >> your question is? >> so the question is, in terms of transformational anger, how would thurgood marshall deal or feel about decisions like citizens united and mccutcheon that people argue undermine our democracy currently. is that the next civil rights fight? or is there something --
>> i've paid attention to thurgood marshall for a long, long time. at least since that encounter in 1975. this man, if you got the five people between optimists and pessimists, in his earlier years, this is a man who saw a silver lining in just about anything. he was an optimist. i saw cases that he lost where he would write a memo saying, but here is what we got out of this. i know later in life he gets older and he gets ill and he becomes quite a curmudgeon. but the young thurgood marshall was an optimist who was kind of a big-tent person. he was an organizer. because something that we haven't talked much about is, as he's moving through the south, he's also building, as professor has indicated, infrastructure. he's organizing people. he's creating chapters of the
naacp. he is getting lawyers involved in civil rights. and you can't do that if you are essentially a pessimistic person. what he would do is, his optimism was infectious and his diplomacy was another tool that he would use. and you can't use the kind of diplomacy that he was so effective in using if people feel as you're approaching them that you've got a chip on your shoulder. there is a difference between that and i've got a mission, i've got something i'm going to do. but, no. the thurgood marshall that i have examined for a long time was a fairly optimistic person. a quite optimistic person.
and i still don't fully understand how is it that most of the photography of him he's frowning. he didn't look like that. this was a man, where if he came in, you would know he is in the room. he had a loud voice. he was loud. i mean literally he -- i think it came from some of his father, but also from that debating experience. you knew when he was in the room. he's probably cracking a joke. he's flirting with the women. and he's trying to find out where we're going here afterwards to get a drink. >> we're going to be able to have a drink outside in a moment. but other concluding thoughts -- in honor of mr. marshall. other concluding remarks from the other panel lisistspanelist? professor crenshaw. >> well, i guess i just want to caution against reproducing the trope of the angry black
anything. angry black man, angry black woman. largely because, number one, as i said earlier, people do have a right to be angry about injustice, especially when you travel 30,000 miles a year confronting it. so if he was angry, i want to say that's okay. i want to challenge the idea that the only legit plat way to engage in social transformation is not to be righteously indignant about it. and i think that there is a level of righteous indignation about a contradiction between a promise and its reality that actually fuels social change. so it doesn't mean that you're not a pleasant person. it doesn't mean that you're not optimistic. actually, people get angry when they are optimistic. and that optimism isn't realized
by actual transformation. that can be the thing that fuels you forward. so i just -- i don't want that to become the legitimator, you have to show that you are not frustrated before we listen to you or before you will be able to mobilize. i actually think we need a little bit more righteous indignation about how much we've lost, that he's given us, and take this as a moment to try to renew the vision of civil rights that he basically dedicated his life for. >> jose anderson. >> i think professor crenshaw's points are well-taken. i think both he and houston were angriest about the hypocrisy of the constitution as written. i think he thought that even in its words and its language that it was being applied in a way
that was hypocritical on its face and i think that's really what most of his fight was about, is that you can't get on with validatingvalidating yours society when in society when yo live and govern yourselves be by the structural hypocrisy. i think that fuelled everything he did from the first cases he did to the last opinion he wrote listing all things getting ready to be dismantled. we just got to the place we got justice many the right frame work. so i think he was fighting for the right to be an american which means a right to be angry when you want to and when justified a right to live and work. he wanted to breathe life into the unworking parts of the constitution. that's what i think he represented. >> you get the last word. what i want to ask you.
hubert humphrey and marshal, who's next? >> francis perkins. that's a great story. there's a few things i'd like to say. it's inherent in the story he had to be an optimist. you can't go through what he went through and imagine a different world without being an optimist. you would have lasted three days being pessimistic. as far as the smith decision and we talk about voting, voting was so important because it was the way people were suppressed. without that they couldn't vote people out of office suppressing them. that's why it was so important. it was at the basis of everything as far as i'm concerned. >> i encourage everybody to see the complete film. >> i should say i think that was the dvd player. we had no problems with the dvd. so if you one -- there's a 15
minute features with justices kagen and stephens discussing the john paul personality. you can also get on tv. >> i encourage everybody to read professor's book. it's outstanding. >> it's outside there. >> it has the addresses where marshal grew up, where his grandparents' grocery stores were, where he practiced law. you can walk from here to each of these addresses. it's fascinating to be so close to that history. professor anderson, thank you. you're going to publish a book about houston we'll read. i want to thank everybody for participating, thank the audience for being here. join us for a reception outside. we'll continue the conversation about mr. civil rights. [ applause ]
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