[News] Was Thurgood Marshall a FBI Snitch?

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 25 12:22:45 EDT 2005

Commentary: Was Thurgood Marshall a FBI Snitch? Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Date: Wednesday, August 24, 2005
By: Gregory P. Kane, BlackAmericaWeb.com

Was Thurgood Marshall a "snitch"?

There's no more appropriate way to conclude a discussion about black folks 
and the snitching phenomenon than to clear up whether that label can 
rightly be applied to the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, 
who is also one of our most cherished civil rights heroes.

Author Timothy B. Tyson first hinted that Marshall may have been a snitch 
in the book "Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams & the Roots of Black 
Power." But what Marshall did in relation to Williams wasn't "snitching" 
per se. Marshall suggested to the FBI -- which isn't, never has been and 
never will be described as a government agency that is a "friend of the 
Negro" -- to investigate Williams so he wouldn't encourage blacks in North 
Carolina to get rowdy.

Before going any further about whether old Thurgood was a snitch, perhaps I 
should explain who this Williams guy was.

Quite simply, from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, Williams was the 
baddest brother in the country. Badder than Martin Luther King Jr. Badder 
than Malcolm. Badder than anybody.

In late 1957, blacks in Monroe, North Carolina tried to integrate the city 
swimming pool. Ku Klux Klan nightriders drove into the black community 
looking to shoot up the home of one of the black leaders.

Blacks, led by Williams, fired back. That put an end to the KKK night rides.

Williams -- who was president of the Monroe chapter of the NAACP -- started 
his self-defense group by first getting a charter from the National Rifle 
Association, of which he was a proud member. Williams was a black liberal 
to my liking. Black liberals these days put the NRA on the morality scale 
considerably below the KKK and only slightly above flesh-eating zombies.

But after Williams visited Fidel Castro's Cuba in the early 1960s, he 
became too red for most civil rights groups and the FBI. He had to flee the 
country to avoid trumped-up kidnapping charges.

Tyson said "it would be simplistic to dismiss Marshall as a red-baiting 
snitch," that disturbing business with Williams notwithstanding. Okay, so 
what kind of snitch was old Thurgood?

Marshall's defenders will no doubt claim that given the red-baiting that 
went on in the McCarthy era, the future chief justice was only being 
prudent in asking the FBI to investigate a chapter president suspected of 
communist sympathies. How then do we account for Marshall's cozying up to 
the FBI in trying to discredit a black leader who was not only not a 
communist, but a capitalist to the bone?

Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard was a Mississippi physician and 
entrepreneur who was a mentor to Medgar Evers, who went on to become that 
state's NAACP field secretary in the 1950s and early 1960s. It was Howard 
who gave Evers his first job after he graduated college. It was Howard who 
boldly helped Evers and others investigate the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till 
and who let Till's mother stay at his house during the trial of her son's 

Howard was praised by most black leaders of America in the 1950s. But old 
Thurgood wasn't among them. According to David T. Beito, an associate 
professor of history at the University of Alabama, Marshall "disliked 
Howard's militant tone and maverick stance. Marshall became so alarmed by 
Howard's support for a proposed march of a million blacks on Washington, 
D.C. that he secretly conspired with (FBI Director J. Edgar) Hoover to 
discredit him. According to an FBI report, Marshall had 'no use for Howard 
and nothing would please him more than to see Howard completely crushed.'"

Howard is one of those unsung black civil rights leaders whose story 
deserves to be told. Beito has written a biography about Howard that is 
still in the  manuscript stage. I tip my hat to Beito for wanting to tell 
Howard's story. And I commend Beito for not skimping on the details about 
Thurgood Marshall as snitch.

OK, maybe "snitch" is too harsh a word. But for all the criticism Supreme 
Court Justice Clarence Thomas has received -- he's been called Uncle Tom, 
handkerchiefhead, lawn jockey and God knows what else -- it's high time 
somebody pointed out that his black predecessor on the high court had feet 
of clay of his own.

Whatever sins Thomas has on his resume, collaborating with the FBI to 
discredit other black leaders isn't one of them.

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