February 22, 2011


Michael G,. Long, ed., Marshalling Justice: The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall (New York: Amistad/Harper Collins, 2011) (From the book's Foreword, "Far From Optimism," by Derrick Bell: "Unjustified optimism in the face of unreconized obstacles is an ideological hazard that has often afflicted advocates of racial justice. Currently, it is manifested in the view that Barack Obama's election to the presidency marks the beginning of the post-racial era. Manifestations of similarly unwarranted euphoria were expressed when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The expectation of a race-free America was predicted as certainty when the Supreme Court handed down its school desegregation decision in 1954. The Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 also prompted grateful prayers by black people that 'out day had come.' The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968 was too high a price to pay for the widespread adoption of affirmative action programs in the years that followed, but those programs were also deemed certain to curtail if not eliminate still viable racial discrimination across a wide spectrum of American life." "It is significant that in the letters Thurgood Marshall wrote from 1935 through 1940--his early years as a civil rights lawyers--he rarely expressed optimism. . . . " Id. at xi. "Considered against current events, the message of Marshall's letters written more than seventy years ago suggests a future that echoes back to the infamous words of Thomas Jefferson: 'When I consider that God is just, I fear for the future of my country.' " Id. at xv. Thurgood Marshall, a rebellious lawyer in the early days.).