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Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  488 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
This New York Times Notable Book of the Year, 1998, is now in trade paper.

From the bestselling author of Eyes on the Prize, here is the definitive biography of the great lawyer and Supreme Court justice.
Paperback, 504 pages
Published February 1st 2000 by Broadway Books (first published September 14th 1998)
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Ryan Holiday
Jul 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Although an informative book, Juan Williams' Thurgood Marshall is an all too common example of a biography where the strength of the subject is forced to shine through weak writing. It is unfortunate that publishers allow the prominence of radio hosts and television pundits almost free reign to chronicle the lives of important historical figures knowing full well that the combination of names will often outweigh the quality of the book.

In this case, Thurgood Marshall is not done justice by Willi
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have to confess, to my shame, that I never really knew who Thurgood Marshall was until I read Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America earlier in the year, in which he represented the 'Groveland Boys'. I found the glimpse of his role as chief lawyer for the NAACP in some of the most important civil rights cases fascinating, so when I came across this book I snapped it up to read. Having done so, I would say it is a must-read for anyone remotely i ...more
Victor Corral
Sep 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Juan Williams' writing, while mediocre, sheds light on the life and work of a man who perhaps did the most to dismantle (though not completely) institutional racism in America.

The chronological narrative plows through many of Marshall's legal battles, sometimes too briefly, but gives a good overview of many of them. Perhaps the book's biggest strength is both its scope (it covers his whole life), and the personal stories and battles between Marshall and his contemporaries (both inside and outsi
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Juan Williams does a great job examing that life of Mr. Civil Rights. Talks of his upbringing in Baltimore and the effect on his thinking and actions. His role in the NCAAP and running the Legal Defense Fund brings out his skill in bring court actions that changed America with Brown versus The Board of Education being one of the 20th Century's greatest legal decision. His elevation to the Supreme Court was not without its struggle with many senators from the Old South holding keep postions and t ...more
George Bradford
Feb 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: heroes
A genuine American hero of the 20th Century, Marshall was a brilliant trial lawyer for several decades before being nominated for the Supreme Court.

This book covers it all. From his childhood in Baltimore, through his education, his career as a fearsome attorney and his tenure as a legal giant on the United States Supreme Court.
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Didn't know who Juan Williams was until I read this book about 12 years ago. Just a brilliant account of one of the trailblazers of the Civil Rights Movement who doesn't get enough credit in my view. Not to mention he was the first African American appointed to the Suprement Court under Lyndon Johnson. Excellent book.
Feb 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A really great book. Interesting, educational, personal. This book taught me so much about the civil rights movement and what daily life was like for the average black person of that era. Marshall's personal life was not so admirable.
Annieamw Wilson
Feb 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is such an excellent biography, and especially timely in light of Obama's election. Marshall was a fascinating man who lived in fascinating times. As a lawyer, I really liked the legal aspect as well, but think a non-lawyer would enjoy it too. The author makes history come alive.
Oct 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
One of the best biographies I've ever read. Williams perfectly blends research and journalistic flair in this intimate portrait of a giant in the American civil rights movement.
Jeremy Perron
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Thurgood Marshall is one of the primary movers of the United States in the twentieth century. He was a trailblazer who challenged racial segregation head-on in the courts and won. Marshall reversed the over a half century precedent of ‘separate but equal’ by making the Supreme Court to finally see correctly what the Fourteenth Amendment is supposed to mean.

Williams traces a young Thurgood Marshall who grew up in Maryland and was mostly uninfected by the segregation system that he would come to c
Richard Thompson
Juan Williams book comes across as a fair portrait, neither hero worship nor hatchet job.

Marshall was a drinker, a smoker, a party animal and a womanizer. He came from a relatively privileged background and was in awe of rich and powerful white guys in his youth (a weakness he never fully overcame). He was ambitious to the point of neglecting his family and choosing his battles.

Marshall did do a lot dismantle Jim Crow practices and laws, and to push for racial equality under the law. Marshall's
Laura LeAnn
Jul 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A review of Thurgood Marshall's life, from beginning to end, and placing his life in historical context in terms of its meaning for America at the time it was written (1998). The breadth of the research that was pursued in order to write this biography of such a larger-than-life character to many must have been daunting and it appears that there were a wide variety of sources used from Marshall's own personal papers at the Library of Congress to newspaper articles written about him at the time o ...more
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Juan Williams did a great job here. I was surprised at his competence and literary acumen. This said, he told a very compelling and important story. Great read.
Elsie Klumpner
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Juan Williams has written an engaging, informative biography of Thurgood Marshall. I wondered at the "American Revolutionary" when I started the book, but by the end, I understood why the phrase was used. Marshall was truly a revolutionary who tried to revolutionize the institutional racism in this country. He never gave up his plan of working from within the system achieve his goals.

The book is interesting on several levels but mostly because it give such rich portrait of the emerging Civil Ri
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
fascinating story, but the telling leaves a great deal to be desired. marshall's life is a more than worthy subject for biography — he came of age at the height of jim crow and before he died, played an enormous role in bringing that age to an end. at the same time, he was a unique and flawed person — probably egotistical, intermittently selfish, ultimately bitter and depressed.

williams's telling, though, is one-sided (virtually all of his sources were close to marshall) and lacks depth. willia
Craig Cunningham
Jul 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing

This is a wonderful biography of a great legal mind, and a mammouth figure in American culture. Certain Republican Senators dismissed Justice Marshall as an "activist judicial mind" during the confirmation hearings of Solicitor General Elena Kegan. These Senators must read this book. Juan Williams gives a complete biographical discription of the man, as pure human being, while capturing the genius of Justice Marshall. As a college professor, I teach courses relating to African American History a
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book. The title is certainly fitting. I had not been aware of the huge role Thurgood Marshall played in fighting for the rights of individuals, and especially the African-American. His belief was that integration needed to be done through the legal system to have long lasting results. Juan Williams material is based on many, many interviews as well as all the law cases and newspaper coverage of the times. I feel the hard work Mr. Williams put into this book, saved the oral hi ...more
Bill Sleeman
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: supremes

A good, well written overview of Marshall's life. I read this some time ago and enjoyed how Williams structured his presentation. That said, I think "Young Thurgood" by Baltimore's own Larry Gibson provides a better introduction to Justice Marshall's early years (to be fair I provided Prof. Gibson some research support for his book). The fact that Gibson knew Marshall and his family, AND Maryland history gives him an advantage over other writers on Marshall.

Still, Williams is a good introductio
Dec 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I do not usually read non fiction, especially biographies so I was unsure about reading this one. I realized after the first chapter that my worries were unfounded. Williams writes a compelling picture of Thurgood Marshall, about whom most might just know one sentence and one obscure fact. The book covers his personal life as well as his professional/political life as a lawyer. In fact, the cases mentioned were my favorite parts of the book.
Williams also did a fair job at not being too heavy ha
David Lucander
This is so much better than I thought it would be! A very detailed look at Marshall's life as a man, lawyer, activist, and judge. Reads surprisingly quickly for a biography that is this thick. I really felt like I "knew" Thurgood as well as anyone could after having read least as well as someone could given his reputation for bring standoffish in his later years. Through personal papers and dozens of oral histories, Williams tells the story of Marshall's life and, to his credit, doesn' ...more
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
A solid biography of Thurgood Marshall. Williams, through interviews and stories from those who new Marshall, was able to give readers an in depth understanding of one of the most important civil rights leaders from the 20th century. Several important court cases were mentioned, and their ever lasting impact was discussed. The struggle with race and becoming one of the most prominent figures in history, makes his story a must read. It's hard to believe that Brown v. Board of Education will barel ...more
Apr 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
A thorough and fair review of Justice Marshall's life and contributions to the "Civil Rights movement". Although an uncomprimising and flawed man, I now hold Justice Marshall in high regard and possibly the most important litigator in the 20th Century.

I confess that I am a Williams fan, and I enjoy his writing style. The last chapter is quite repetitive, but overall the writing is to the point and full of the personal details that endear you to the subject of the biography.

Greta Tackebury Trakul
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful biography that will stick with me for a very long time. Thurgood Marshall to me was just a liberal Supreme Court justice - something dusty in my old con law casebooks. This biography focuses on his hugely impactful civil rights career, and it brought to life the struggle for civil rights in a new way for me. I was fascinated from start to finish, and it has changed the way I will think about race issues forever.
LaShana Claude
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Suprisingly, an excellent biography. It's been a while since I read it but Williams does a great job of covering his other work not related to Brown vs. Board of Education. I'll have to read it again but I was happily surprised because I did not think the author would put out a body of work favorable to Justice Marshall given his media character.
Mar 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Although my dog is named after him and he was my husband's favorite Chief Justice when he studied the law, it wasn't the only reason I read it. This was a very interesting man, a visionary and an important figure in American history. So many people really don't know this and the book is excellent if you are interested in finding out more.
Dec 15, 2007 rated it liked it
This was the Sullivan Brother's book selection for the Fall reading. I learned a lot about his life and how the experiences he had growing up in Baltimore helped shape his attitudes about segregation and its unfairness. He achieved much in his life while still being very human - full of contradictions. It will be an interesting discussion when we meet to discuss the book.
Nov 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Generally good overview of Marshall's life. Wish there was more material for the period during which he served as Supreme Court Justice. Chapters on Civil Rights involvement, particularly the early NAACP years leading up to the Brown decision, were strongest.
Feb 24, 2011 rated it liked it
The story is an interesting and important one, but, sadly, the prose leaves much to be desired. Given the dearth of biographies on so important a figure as Thurgood Marshall, however, I do recommend the book.
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Marshall argued many of the most important cases decided by the Supreme Court, including Brown v Board of Education before he became a Supreme Court justice. A fascinating American; his life story well told.
Jul 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Excellent biography. The author gives a clear view of Marshall without showing too much bias on one side or the other. Marshallis not given the credit historically for his efforts in civil rights movement. Williams helps in this biography to bring the history forward.
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African American History 1 1 Nov 14, 2015 03:01PM  
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