Thurgood Marshall
A Life in American History
by Spencer R. Crew
September 2019, 266pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-6144-4
$69, £54, 60€, A95
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6145-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, argued thirty-two cases before the Supreme Court and won twenty-three of them.

This compelling new biography introduces the reader to the constant battles for equality faced by African Americans through a study of the career of Thurgood Marshall, who believed in the power of the law to change a society.

As a lawyer, Thurgood Marshall played an incredible role in ending legal segregation in the United States. For thirty years he traveled across the country for the NAACP, trying cases and encouraging African Americans to fight against discrimination. His successes made him a highly respected lawyer and individual throughout the nation. Those accomplishments led to his appointment as the first African American Supreme Court justice, where he continued the fight to protect the rights of all citizens, not just the rich and powerful.

Spencer R. Crew’s work follows the career of Thurgood Marshall from his youth in Baltimore, Maryland, to his days as a Supreme Court Justice. Thurgood Marshall’s inspiring story illustrates the racism faced by African Americans in the twentieth century long after the end of slavery. It also shows how hard it was to make progress in blunting its impact on their lives. In Marshall’s life one sees the importance of perseverance and an unwavering belief in the American constitution and its principles.


  • Provides the reader with a better understanding of the challenges faced by African Americans in the twentieth century
  • Highlights the courage and determination of Marshall in the face of constant danger as well as the courage of the individuals who were willing to go to court in spite of the attacks and repercussions they faced in their communities
  • Illustrates the importance of the Supreme Court with regard to progress in civil rights
  • Brings to light Marshall's importance as a protector of human rights while serving as a Supreme Court Justice
  • Points out the key court cases that undermined the system of segregation in the United States
  • Includes archival photographs and primary documents related to help bring Marshall's experiences to life
Spencer R. Crew, PhD, is Clarence J. Robinson Professor of History at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia. He is coauthor of Slave Culture: A Documentary Collection of the Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project and Memories of the Enslaved: Voices from the Slave Narratives with Lonnie G. Bunch and Clement A. Price.


"Rather than a standard biography of Thurgood Marshall, this is an extensive analysis of the legal cases he pursued in his efforts to end segregation in America, arranged chronologically. . . helpful to college and law students."—Booklist Online, January 10, 2020

"Recommended. All readership levels."—Choice, June 1, 2020

Black History Lives

This biography series explores the lives of the most iconic figures in African American history, with material that supports state standards while highlighting the subject’s significance in our contemporary world. Each volume includes a narrative of the life of each subject, a chapter on the subject’s larger cultural and historical significance, a chronology, a comprehensive bibliography, and sidebars that offer pertinent cultural connections to the worlds of social, political, intellectual, and popular culture. An appendix of primary document excerpts rounds out each volume. Readers of the Black History Lives series will gain a greater understanding of the outside events and influences that shaped each subject’s world, from familial relationships to political and cultural developments.


Series foreword Biographical narrative chapters Why X Matters chapter that explores the subject’s importance within the context of American history Timeline Bibliography Primary Source Documents “Cultural Connections” Sidebars Index
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