Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The title Thurgood Marshall: Fighter for Justice accurately describes the tone that Lewis Fenderson uses throughout this fictionalized biography. From the opening scene, in which Marshall gets into a fight with a white man who called him “nigguh,” to his conflicts with Southern senators who objected to his nomination to the Supreme Court, the author portrays a fighter for constitutional rights.

The sixteen short chapters, five to ten pages each, include considerable dialogue, as well as the conclusions that the author has made about the influences and motivations in Marshall’s life. Fenderson presents the genealogy of the Marshall family, which included a rebellious slave from the Congo; a grandfather who gave himself the name Thorough Good so he could meet the Union army requirement of more than one name to list; a grandmother who staged an early sit-in when a utility com-pany wanted to put a pole in the middle of her sidewalk; his mother, an elementary-school teacher, and his father, a steward; and his two wives, Vivien (Buster), who died in 1955, and Cecilia (Cissy), who gave birth to Thurgood, Jr., and John William.

William Marshall, who enjoyed attending trials and reading the newspaper reports of law cases, used the dinner table to challenge his sons’ thinking and to discuss questions about the Constitution. Thurgood followed his brother, Aubrey, to Lincoln University and became involved in debate, where he honed his research and speaking skills. One evening, his friend John Little challenged him to join a group that had decided to integrate the film theater in nearby Oxford, Pennsylvania. After a confrontation with an usher and an unnamed patron, the group of Lincoln students watched the film and then left with the...

(The entire section is 722 words.)