Thurgood Marshall: Fighter for Justice Critical Essays

Lewis H. Fenderson


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Fenderson opens his story with a dramatic incident from Marshall’s early adolescence. At a train station, a white man, whom Marshall could not see because of a stack of Easter hatboxes, said, “Nigguh, don’t you never push in front of no white lady again.” Marshall responded with his fists and was saved from jail (or worse) by the white police officer who intervened. Fortunately, the officer knew the boy and his family. This partial biography presents Marshall as a lively teenager whose forebears had shown the kind of courage that he would as an attorney. Although Marshall’s intellectual strengths and courage are almost eulogized, this biographer does balance his portrait with reports such as Marshall’s misbehavior in high school, which often resulted in being sent to the school basement to memorize sections of the Constitution. Fenderson credits this experience, along with dinner time discussions with his father, William, about the Constitution and the legal cases that his father followed, as the ones that led Marshall to law school.

Fenderson, who was an English professor, strove to present an exciting story for young readers but, in the attempt, appears to throw the book out of balance. Two chapters are used to report the effect of the white man’s challenge at the train station, and another two chapters are given to the case of W. D. Lyons, an African-American man accused of murder who was deprived of his rights. Both incidents make...

(The entire section is 439 words.)