Black History Month Review of “Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America” by Wil Haygood

Thurgood Marshall may not have worn a cape and tights, but he was, nevertheless, every inch a superhero.

Wil Haygood takes us back to Marshall’s childhood to tell us what it was like for a young, smart, ambitious kid growing up in a world in which he couldn’t even use most public bathrooms or be admitted to many restaurants and hotels. But this never diminished his spirit and determination. On the contrary, it inspired him further not only to achieve, but to work for change for everyone else.

9780307957191

This book uses the Senate confirmation hearings for Marshall’s Supreme Court nomination as scaffolding to structure his story; the author goes back and forth in time, basically telling in large part the history of black America from post-Reconstruction times onward. It is a nasty and brutal history which will often have you cringing (there are, for example, two blow-by-blow accounts of lynchings, though the accounts are quite germane), but will greatly enhance your understanding of the country as it is today.

Thurgood Marshall with the president who nominated him to the Supreme Court, Lyndon Johnson

Thurgood Marshall with the president who nominated him to the Supreme Court, Lyndon Johnson

Evaluation: If you only read about the life of one trailblazing hero, I recommend reading about Thurgood Marshall. His unparalleled bravery in spite of constant threats against his life, his unflagging dedication to others, and his unfailing good humor and optimism in the face of unrelenting efforts by whites to keep him down, is utterly amazing and inspirational.

I’ve seen some reviews opine that Devil in the Grove, also about Marshall, is superior to this book. I found it excellent as well, but the fact is, when you’re writing about a true giant of a man like Marshall, it’s hard to go wrong.

Rating: 4.5/5

Hardcover published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. Audiobook published unabridged on 12 CDs (14 1/2 listening hours) by Random House Audio, an imprint of the Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2014

A Few Notes on the Audio Production: The narrator, Dominic Hoffman, is nothing short of sensational. He has a couple of mispronunciations (e.g., Estes Kefauver), but I can’t really complain because his overall performance is so outstanding.

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4 Responses to Black History Month Review of “Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America” by Wil Haygood

  1. aartichapati says:

    I will look for both of these books – glad the audiobook was so strong, too!

  2. Care says:

    I already have Devil in the Grove on my tbr and now I will audiobook -wishlist this. Thanks

  3. I looooove Thurgood Marshall. He’s one of my big heroes. I know that he wasn’t perfect — his friendliness with J. Edgar Hoover bothers me every time I think about it — but the amount of work and reform he gave to this country is frankly unparalleled. What an amazing guy. (This book’s on my list! I can’t wait to read it!)

    • This book talks a lot about that friendship as well as his friendship with local southern racist sheriffs. It was all, according to this author, quite strategic, enabling him to do what he did without being stopped by these guys. Especially when Johnson was trying to get him on the Supreme Court and all these southern senators wanted to nail him for having communist sympathies, they got nowhere. He was just a brilliant mastermind, as far as I can tell!

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