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Thurgood Marshall: Civil Rights Leader

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (in Brown v. Board of Education) in favor of desegregating America's public schools. Two years later, little progress had been made. "You know, you hear all this talk about the movement for the Negro's rights and desegregation being pushed by the North faster than the colored people down in the South want," Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall (the first black justice in history) said at the time. "Thurgood Marshall's supposed to be masterminding this whole campaign, somehow, against the wishes of Southern Negroes, those millions of childlike, happy, easygoing colored folk -- that's the way segregationists talk about Negroes when they're not describing them as vicious, immoral, and diseased -- who would be as contented as pie if agitators didn't come along and stir them up.

"That's funny, because our people in the South are actually way ahead of us on this thing. It reminds me of the story of the crowd that was rushing at top speed down the street. A man standing on the sidewalk saw them go by and naturally got curious. He went out on the road and grabbed a guy huffin' and puffin' along at the tail end of the crowd and said, 'What's goin' on here?' The other guy pulled loose and cried, 'Don't hold me back, man! Don't you know I'm the leader of that crowd? And if I don't run like hell they'll get away from me altogether.' That's me," he said, laughing. "The leader at the tail end."

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