Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Thurgood Marshall

American Jurist, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and first African-American Justice

"A man can make what he wants of himself if he truly believes that he must be ready for hard work and many heartbreaks along the way."

"A child born to a black mother in a state like Mississippi . . . has the same rights as a white baby born to the wealthiest person in the United States. It's not true, but I challenge anyone to say it is not a goal worth working for."

"Certain people have a way of saying things that shake us at the core. Even when the words do not seem harsh or offensive, the impact is shattering. What we could be experiencing is the intent behind the words. When we intend to do good, we do. When we intend to do harm, it happens. What each of us must come to realize is that our intent always comes through. We cannot sugarcoat the feelings in our heart of hearts. The emotion is the energy that motivates. We cannot ignore what we really want to create. We should be honest and do it the way we feel it. What we owe to ourselves and everyone around is to examine the reasons of our true intent."

"Customary greeting to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, “What's shaking, chiefy baby?”"

"[Jurors who are opposed to capital punishment are] more likely to believe that a defendant's failure to testify is indicative of his guilt, more hostile to the insanity defense, more mistrustful of defense attorneys and less concerned about the danger of erroneous convictions."

"Ending racial discrimination in jury selection can be accomplished only by eliminating peremptory challenges entirely."

"History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure."

"I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband."

"I'm the world's original gradualist. I just think ninety-odd years is gradual enough."

"It is a historic step toward eliminating the shameful practice of racial discrimination in the selection of juries."

"Lawlessness is lawlessness. Anarchy is anarchy is anarchy. Neither race nor color nor frustration is an excuse for either lawlessness or anarchy."

"Even if all parties approach the court's mandate with the best of conscious intentions,... that mandate requires them to confront and overcome their own racism on all levels — a challenge I doubt all of them can meet."

"I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust… We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better."

"If the 1st Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch."

"In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute."

"Nothing can be more notorious than the calumnies and invectives with which the wisest measures and most virtuous characters of The United States have been pursued and traduced [by American newspapers]."

"Mere access to the courthouse doors does not by itself assure a proper functioning of the adversary process."

"Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds."

"Some may more quietly commemorate the suffering, struggle, and sacrifice that has triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original document, and observe the anniversary with hopes not realized and promises not fulfilled. I plan to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution as a living document, including the Bill of Rights and the other amendments protecting individual freedoms and human rights."

"None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody — a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony, or a few nuns — bent down and helped us pick up our boots."

"Sometimes history takes things into its own hands."

"The equal protection clause does not require proportional representation, ... meaningless ballots."

"The ban directly hampers the party's ability to spread its message and hamstrings voters seeking to inform themselves about the candidates and issues,"

"Surely the fact that a uniformed police officer is wearing his hair below his collar will make him no less identifiable as a policeman."

"The government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today."

"The measure of a country's greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis."

"The United States has been called the melting pot of the world. But it seems to me that the colored man either missed getting into the pot or he got melted down."

"We can always stick together when we are losing, but tend to find means of breaking up when we're winning."

"Today's Constitution is a realistic document of freedom only because of several corrective amendments. Those amendments speak to a sense of decency and fairness that I and other Blacks cherish."

"What is the quality of your intent? Certain people have a way of saying things that shake us at the core. Even when the words do not seem harsh or offensive, the impact is shattering. What we could be experiencing is the intent behind the words. When we intend to do good, we do. When we intend to do harm, it happens. What each of us must come to realize is that our intent always comes through. We cannot sugarcoat the feelings in our heart of hearts. The emotion is the energy that motivates. We cannot ignore what we really want to create. We should be honest and do it the way we feel it. What we owe to ourselves and everyone around is to examine the reasons of our true intent. My intent will be evident in the results."