Today in History: October 2
On October 2, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice. Long before President Lyndon Johnson appointed him the first African-American Supreme Court justice, Marshall had established himself as the nation's leading legal civil rights advocate.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908, Marshall graduated with honors from Lincoln University and received his law degree from Howard University in 1933, ranking first in his class. He soon joined the legal staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and, for the twenty years between 1940 and 1961, headed the organization's Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
In 1954, Marshall achieved national recognition for his successful argument of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case. The Supreme Court's decision in this landmark case overturned Plessy v. Ferguson (1889) by ruling that public school segregation constituted an unconstitutional violation of rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. The Court's unanimous decision in this case surprised many, including Marshall, and lent enhanced legitimacy to this major development in constitutional law. The Brown decision, along with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, brought the demise of a web of state and local laws which had bound blacks to second-class citizenship.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and four years later President Johnson named him solicitor general of the United States before appointing him to the Supreme Court. Marshall spent nearly twenty-five years on the Court continuing to play a leading role in the legal fight to end racial discrimination in America by working to solidify the Brown decision and other civil rights victories through a series of judicial remedies.
Justice Marshall retired in 1991 and passed away on January 24, 1993. The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress holds significant collections of his personal papers both in the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Collection and the Thurgood Marshall Papers. Although these collections have not been digitized, there is considerable information available through the Library's Web site on Marshall and the civil rights era:
- Paul Conrad's 1993 cartoon "A Pillar of Justice" honoring Marshall ran in the Los Angeles Times. It is featured on this page and is found in the exhibition American Treasures of the Library of Congress.
- The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship provides an overview of African-American history through the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School--a direct result of Thurgood Marshall's successful argument of Brown v. Board of Education-- in the section on The Civil Rights Era.
- For information on the Supreme Court decree concerning implementation "with all deliberate speed" of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling, see Words and Deeds in American History that includes Felix Frankfurter's draft decree to enforce the Brown v. Board of Education and notes from Supreme Court Justices Douglas, Burton, and Frankfurter to Chief Justice Warren.
- Also, see the National Park Service's Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site that, upon completion of a major renovation effort, will be open to the public as an interpretive center and resource center for information about Brown v. Board of Education and its role in the civil rights movement.
The Honorable the Congress have been pleased in just Abhorrence of the perfidy of his conduct to pass the following Act…Resolved, That the Board of War be and hereby are directed to erase from the register of the names of the officers of the army of the United States, the name of Benedict Arnold.
On October 2, 1780, British intelligence officer Major John André was hanged as a spy in Tappan, New York. Captured on his return to New York City by American militiamen fighting in the War of Independence, Major André was found to have papers hidden in his boot concerning Continental army Brigadier General Benedict Arnold's negotiation for the surrender of West Point. (Arnold had recently been appointed commandant of the fort at West Point.)
General George Washington designated a board of officers to hear the case. André was found guilty of spying and sentenced to death.
Arnold, motivated by greed, by his opposition to the French alliance of 1778, and by his resentment towards authorities who had reprimanded him for irregularities during his command in Philadelphia, had maintained a secret correspondence with Major André since May 1779. On September 21, 1780, Arnold had agreed to surrender West Point to the British in exchange for 20,000 pounds.
Upon hearing of André's arrest, Arnold fled to the Vulture, a British warship on the Hudson River. That same day, he wrote to General Washington, begging mercy for his wife, Loyalist sympathizer Peggy Shippen Arnold:
I have no favor to ask for myself, I have too often experienced the ingratitude of my Country to attempt it: but from the known humanity of your Excellence I am induced to ask your protection for Mrs. Arnold from every Insult and Injury that the mistaken vengeance of my Country may expose her to. It ought to fall only on me. She is as good, and as Innocent as an Angel, and is incapable of doing wrong.
Unaware of her participation in her husband's duplicitous dealings with the British, Washington provided an escort for Mrs. Arnold back to her family home in Philadelphia. Authorities in that city forced her to flee to her husband in New York where he was shunned as a traitor by British officers.
During the remainder of the Revolutionary War, Arnold served as a brigadier general in the British army, leading raids on Virginia and Connecticut. After the surrender of the British army at Yorktown in October 1781, he and his family moved to England, where he died in 1801. In the United States, his name became synonymous with traitor.
- Search on traitor or spy in the collection American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 to read stories of other conspirators. See the Today in History feature on Nathan Hale to learn about the patriot hanged by the British for spying.
- Search the Today in History Archive on Revolutionary War to read about more events in the fight for American independence.
- Read more correspondence between Washington and Arnold in the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799. Search the collection on Benedict Arnold or on John André.
- Search on Benedict Arnold in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog to see images of the man, cartoons depicting his treachery, as well as photographs of his birthplace and his homes in Philadelphia and New Haven.