Here’s a selection of Thurgood Marshall Quotes, covering topics such as greatness, integration, justice and life.
We really hope you enjoy these quotes and that they give you something to think about.
If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.
Do what you think is right and let the law catch up.
I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.
The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in time of crisis.
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.
Equal means getting the same thing, at the same time and in the same place.
‘Black’ is an adjective, in my book, and the way I use it, sometimes I’ll say ‘black people.’ But if I’m talking about a person, I’m going to say ‘a Negro,’ because I was taught to say that, and I don’t see any reason to change it. I don’t think that gives pride or anything else. I don’t think you get pride by calling yourself this or that.
It was taken for granted that we had to make something of ourselves. Not much was said about it; it was just in the atmosphere of the home.
I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband.
To protest against injustice is the foundation of all our American democracy.
[T]he Constitution was a product of its times. [Progressive]
Our Constitution is the envy of the world, as it should be for it is the grand design of the finest nation on earth.
Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
What is the quality of your intent?
Lawlessness is lawlessness. Anarchy is anarchy is anarchy. Neither race nor color nor frustration is an excuse for either lawlessness or anarchy.
We can always stick together when we are losing, but tend to find means of breaking up when we’re winning. In Grace under Pressure, by Hastie, 1984.
When in Gregg v. Georgia the Supreme Court gave its seal of approval to capital punishment, this endorsement was premised on the promise that capital punishment would be administered with fairness and justice. Instead, the promise has become a cruel and empty mockery. If not remedied, the scandalous state of our present system of capital punishment will cast a pall of shame over our society for years to come. We cannot let it continue.
None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.
When the prison gates slam behind an inmate, he does not lose his human quality; his mind does not become closed to ideas; his intellect does not cease to feed on a free and open interchange of opinions; his yearning for self-respect does not end; nor is his quest for self-realization concluded.
Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.
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].
This is a great country, but fortunately for you, it is not perfect. There is much to be done to bring about complete equality. Remove hunger. Bring reality closer to theory and democratic principles.
The death penalty is no more effective a deterrent than life imprisonment… It is also evident that the burden of capital punishment falls upon the poor, the ignorant and the underprivileged members of society.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
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.
When the prison gates slam behind an inmate, he does not lose his human quality; his mind does not become closed to ideas; his intellect does not cease to feed on a free and open interchange of opinions; his yearning for self-respect does not end; nor is his quest for self-realization concluded. If anything, the needs for identity and self-respect are more compelling in the dehumanizing prison environment.
I’m the world’s original gradualist. I just think ninety-odd years is gradual enough.
Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
Ending racial discrimination in jury selection can be accomplished only by eliminating peremptory challenges entirely.
Each of you, as an individual, must pick your own goals. Listen to others, but do not become a blind follower.
The First Amendment serves not only the needs of the polity but also those of the human spirit – a spirit that demands self-expression .
It is now well established that the Constitution protects the right to receive information and ideas. … This right to receive information and ideas, regardless of their social worth, … is fundamental to our free society.
The ban directly hampers the partys ability to spread its message and hamstrings voters seeking to inform themselves about the candidates and issues.
[It is] a historic step toward eliminating the shameful practice of racial discrimination in the selection of juries.
If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
My father had a flat rule. He believed that every man’s house was his castle. He had a flat rule: no man could come in his house without his permission.
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.
A child born to a Black mother in a state like Mississippi… has exactly 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.
Classifications and distinctions based on race or color have no moral or legal validity in our society. They are contrary to our constitution and laws.
The Ku Klux Klan never dies. They just stop wearing sheets because sheets cost too much.
Patriotic feelings will surely swell, prompting proud proclamations of the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice shared by the Framers and reflected in a written document now yellowed with age . . . [F]or many Americans the bicentennial celebration will be little more than a blind pilgrimage to the shrine of the original document now stored in a vault in the National Archives. [Progressive]
In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.
If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
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.
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.
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.
Mere access to the courthouse doors does not by itself assure a proper functioning of the adversary process.
It is important that the strongest pressures against the continuation of segregation, North or South, be continually and constantly manifested. Probably, as much as anything else, this is the key in the elimination of discrimination in the United States.
Deciding not to decide is, of course, among the most important things done by the Supreme Court. It takes a lot of doing, but it can be done.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
When you hear a lot of stories about Africa, and you get to a place like Kenya and other countries like that, where they think the same way we do, I was happy to find that the Schedule of Rights that I drew for the Kenyan Government was working very well.
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
The process of democracy is one of change. Our laws are not frozen into immutable form, they are constantly in the process of revision in response to the needs of a changing society.
It always seems impossible until it’s done.
Racism separates, but it never liberates. Hatred generates fear, and fear once given a foothold; binds, consumes and imprisons. Nothing is gained from prejudice. No one benefits from racism.
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.
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’s shaking, chiefy baby?
Some years ago I said in an opinion that if this country is a melting pot, then either the Afro-Americans didn’t get in the pot or he didn’t get melted down.
To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today.
A man can make what he wants of himself if he truly believes that he must be ready for hard work and many heartbreaks.
Sometimes history takes things into its own hands.
As soon as I reach any town, I talk to the shoe-shine boys or the barbers or the people in the restaurants, because it’s Mr. Joe Doakes who is very close to reality.
We could get more action in the South because the Negroes had a feeling that they were being oppressed. But you take New York, for example: they’d give Negroes little five-cent jobs here and there – and they thought they had something. And the same in Chicago and any of the metropolitan areas.
Customary greeting to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, What’s shaking, chiefy baby?
Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.
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.
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
The common calvinist experience of life as a refugee, or of being part of a host community that received refugees, led to lasting international connections between individuals and communities…as churches became established in switzerland, the palatinate, scotland, england and bearn, and the churches in the netherlands, france, hungary and poland battled for legal recognition and survival, princely courts, noble houses, universities and colleges also became locations for interactions between many calvinists. Theologians, clergy, students, booksellers, merchants, diplomats, courtiers and military officers became involved in networks of personal contacts, correspondence, teaching and negotiation.
Truth is more than a mental exercise.
I cannot accept this invitation [to celebrate the bicentenial of the Constitution], for I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever ‘fixed’ at the Philadelphia Convention… To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start. [Progressive]
I never worked hard until I got to the Howard Law School and met Charlie Houston… I saw this man’s dedication, his vision, his willingness to sacrifice, and I told myself, ‘You either shape up or ship out.’ When you are being challenged by a great human being, you know that you can’t ship out.
We cannot play ostrich. Democracy just cannot flourish amid fear. Liberty cannot bloom amid hate. Justice cannot take root amid rage. America must get to work. In the chill climate in which we live, we must go against the prevailing wind. 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 from a nation that has buried its head in the sand, waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education or hope. We must dissent from the poverty of vision and the absence of moral leadership. We must dissent because america can do better, because america has no choice but to do better.
We must dissent from the fear.
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 from a nation that has buried its head in the sand, waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education or hope. We must dissent from the poverty of vision and the absence of moral leadership. We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.
We deal here with the right of all of our children, whatever their race, to an equal start in life and to an equal opportunity to reach their full potential as citizens. Those children who have been denied that right in the past deserve better than to see fences thrown up to deny them that right in the future.
Surely the fact that a uniformed police officer is wearing his hair below his collar will make him no less identifiable as a policeman.