He was the first African American judge on the U.S. Supreme Court, and before that, he had an incredible career as a civil rights lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) made an undeniable impact on American history, and he’s occasionally shown up in historical movies and TV shows because of it. Perhaps his most famous case was as a lawyer representing the plaintiff in the landmark 1954 decision of Brown v. Board of Education. This ended the ‘separate but equal’ racial segregation in schools. Marshall also won cases involving unequal salaries for African Americans, he successfully challenged a whites-only primary election, and he won a case striking down segregation on inter-state buses. Overall, he won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.
When he became a justice himself in 1967, he was frequently part of the liberal majority with the Warren Court, and Thurgood Marshall wrote 322 majority opinions during his time on the court. He retired in 1991 due to poor health and passed soon after. Let’s take a look at he’s been depicted in TV and film.
Sidney Poitier in Separate but Equal (1991)
Peter Francis James in “Simple Justice,” American Experience (1993)
Brian Stokes Mitchell in The Ernest Green Story (1993)
Roger R. Cross in The Color of Courage (1998)
Joe Morton in Mutiny (1999)
Laurence Fishburne in Thurgood (2011)
Danny Glover in Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight (2013)
Chadwick Boseman in Marshall (2017)
What onscreen Thurgood Marshall are you familiar with?
Would like to see Fishburne’s Marshall. And Marshall recused himself from deliberations on a case?! Remember when Supremes knew how to do that?
Seems like a different world!
I’ll have to check out ‘Mutiny’! I am very familiar with that disaster but had somehow missed that there was a movie made of it.
Thank you so much for this post–and for including links to the full films!
You reminded me I wanted to watch Marshall! And lucky me, the library has it on shelf…
I was most familiar with Chadwick Boseman as Marshall. I’d forgotten about Laurence Fishburne’s and Sidney Poitier’s versions. Never new about Brian Stokes Mitchell playing him. Great MCM choice!
I didn’t know there were so many Thurgood Marshall movies!
I saw the one with Chadwick Boseman, and thought he did an excellent job. What bothered me was that it felt like Thurgood was sidelined and muted in favor of focusing on Josh Gad’s character.