Why did Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall state that he did not celebrate the 1787 Constitution?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall chose not to attend the festivities for 200 year anniversary commemoration of the U. S. Constitution in 1987, primarily because he believes that the Constitution--and its founding fathers--deliberately did not include full rights for black slaves and women. Political compromises affected the wording of the document, which, according to Marshall, did not live up to the credo that

"all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Marshall claims that the compromises made in the writing of the Constitutution extended the importation of slaves in the Southern states for another 20 years.

The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 could not have envisioned these changes. They could not have imagined, nor would they have accepted, that the document they were drafting would one day be construed by a Supreme Court to which had been appointed a woman and the descendent of an African slave. "We the People" no longer enslave, but the credit does not belong to the framers. It belongs to those who refused to acquiesce in outdated notions of "liberty," "justice," and "equality," and who strived to better them.

So, Marshall chose not to celebrate the bicentennial "with flag-waving fervor." Instead, he celebrated it as "a living document," preferring to honor the Bill of Righs "and the other amendments protecting individual freedoms and human rights."

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