Remarks at the Second Circuit Judicial Conference
By Thurgood Marshall
One solution to the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow is affirmative action. This policy has been challenged for nearly 40 years. Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) helped to argue the Brown v. Board of Education case ending school desegregation in 1954, and later became the first African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
I would like to speak today about an issue much discussed in recent months, in part because of cases which came to our Court from this Circuit last year. I refer to the Sheet Metal Workers case in which our Court affirmed the excellent decision by Judge Pratt, and to the question of affirmative action. Much has been said lately about the scope of permissible remedies, both voluntary and mandatory, in cases of employment discrimination. The decisions of our Court in this past term suggest to me that there is still a basic agreement among a majority of the justices that the commands of Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause should be implemented, where necessary, through broad-based relief including the imposition of affirmative duties to eradicate the effects of past discrimination. But because statements in sharp opposition to the use of affirmative remedies have recently been heard with increasing frequency, I think it is appropriate to share with you some general thoughts about why affirmative action is necessary, and on the role which it plays in our law despite many people in high offices trying to explain away our decision. We will explain it. Read the article (PDF).
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