first african american supreme court justice

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Jussie smollett starring as langston hughes in marshall film about the first African american supreme court justice thurgood marshall starring chadwick a. Boseman as thurgood marshall…. Marshall comes out october 13th 2017 #JussieSmollett #jussie_smollettfans

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William T. Coleman Jr., who helped draft the landmark 1954 legal case in which the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public schools was illegal and who later became the country’s second black Cabinet officer after President Gerald R. Ford named him transportation secretary, died March 31 at his home in Alexandria, Va. He was 96.

Throughout his long career, Mr. Coleman was often at the forefront of major public events, legal battles and significant social advances. In 1948, he became the first African American to serve as a law clerk to a Supreme Court justice, and within two years he was working alongside Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund on major desegregation cases.

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He was the first black accepted on the Harvard Law Review, the first to serve as a clerk to a Supreme Court Justice, the second to serve on a President’s Cabinet and the first to reach the top of the corporate legal establishment. It is always painful to admit that we are losing our heroes. However, this is life. And it’s very important to remember the name of this great man who created the future for many of us. We must keep the memory of him. Because of him we can. Segregation was one of the worst (exept slavery and genocide of inative american etc.) things in the history of America. People like Coleman destroyed it. He was a man of very clear practical judgment in grasping the essentials of any situation, with clarity of mind, strength of judgment, tenacity, and resourcefulness.

#BlackPride #BlackHistory 

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January 20th 2009: Inauguration of Barack Obama

On this day in 2009, eight years ago, Barack Obama was sworn into office as the 44th President of the United States. That day, Obama made history as the nation’s first African-American President, having successfully defeated Republican candidate John McCain in the 2008 election. January 20th has been the official presidential Inauguration Day since the ratification of the 20th Amendment in 1933; previously, new presidents were sworn in on March 4th. Obama’s inauguration was one of the most observed events in global history, with millions watching in person, online, or on television. The day’s theme was ‘A New Birth of Freedom’, which derives from President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. Obama was sworn into office by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, who administered the oath of office required by the Constitution in Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight. However, the oath administered to Obama strayed slightly from the exact words specified in the Constitution, and he thus retook the oath the next evening. Obama was re-elected to office in 2012, defeating Republican Mitt Romney. The Obama presidency will be remembered primarily for the historic passage of the Affordable Care Act, the normalisation of relations with Cuba, and his appointments to the Supreme Court. His years in office were also marked by increased partisanship and division in America, and continued instability in the Middle East. Obama leaves office today, to be replaced by Republican Donald Trump, with high approval ratings, leaving a legacy of grace and statesmanship that will not be soon forgotten.

Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the Court’s 96th justice and its first African-American justice.

Subtle American History lesson.

Senate Confirms Marshall As the First Negro Justice

Fred Graham, The New York Times, 31 August 1967

WASHINGTON — Thurgood Marshall was confirmed today by the Senate as the 96th Justice—and the first Negro Justice—of the United States Supreme Court. The vote was 69 to 11.

The overwhelming Senate approval of Mr. Marshall’s nomination came after almost six hours of speeches, in which the former chief legal officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was criticized as being too liberal and unqualified for the post.

Opponents and supporters alike vowed that they had not been swayed by the fact that Mr. Marshall would be the first Negro to sit as a member of the highest court in the land. However, all but one of the “nay” votes were cast by Senators from the Deep South. The non-Southerner who opposed the nomination was Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat.

Senator Byrd explained that ‘he had voted to confirm Mr. Marshall’s previous appointments as judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and as Solicitor General, the position he now holds. But Senator Byrd contended that Mr. Marshall’s addition to the Supreme Court would create a “built-in activist majority” that would favor criminal defendants at the expense of the public good.

Senate Republicans presented a surprisingly strong front in favor of Mr. Marshall’s appointment. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was the only member of their party to vote, against it. Thirty-seven Democrats and 32 Republicans voted for Mr. Marshall.  …

After the vote the Justice Department released a brief statement by the Solicitor General. It said: “I am greatly honored by the appointment and its confirmation. Let me take this opportunity to reaffirm my deep faith in this nation and its people, and to pledge that I shall ever be mindful of my obligation to the Constitution and to the goal of equal justice under law.”

Supreme Court Justices take two oaths of office. One is the “constitutional oath” taken by all Federal officials to affirm their allegiance to the Constitution. This is normally taken by a Supreme Court Justice soon after his confirmation, but the White House press secretary, George Christian, was unable  to say immediately when the ceremony would be held for Mr. Marshall.

Justices also take a “judicial oath,” which is required by a Federal statute to be taken before a newly confirmed judge can take any official judicial actions. Some Supreme Court Justices who have been confirmed during the Court’s summer recess have not taken the judicial oath until the first day of the Court term, which always falls on the first Monday in October.

Most of the speeches in opposition to the 59-year-old jurist’s nomination contended that his record marked him as a “judicial activist,” who would line up with other activists to form a liberal majority in criminal law, civil rights and antisubversive cases.

Senator Ervin, a former Supreme Court Justice of North Carolina who is considered the leading legal theorist of the Dixie forces, led off for the opponents with a 1-hour and 20-minute speech that concentrated on the “judicial activist” theme. Summing up his argument, he said: “Judge Marshall is by practice and philosophy a constitutional iconoclast, and his elevation to the Supreme Court at this juncture in our history would make it virtually certain that for years to come, if not forever, the American people will be ruled by the arbitrary, notions of Supreme Court Justices rather than by the precepts of the Constitution.”

Senator Jacob K. Javits, New York Republican, replied that Mr. Marshall’s opponents were “rearguing past decisions on the Court with which they disagree. They should not take retribution on him for what happened before he got there.” “ Senator Javits noted that Chief Justice Earl Warren, Justice Hugo L. Black, Justice Byron White and others had followed judicial philosophies different from what had been generally expected before they became Justices. He predicted that Mr. Marshall, too, "will surprise a lot of his critics.”

In an hour-long speech Senator Thurmond gave a question-by-question review of the constitutional quiz he had given Mr. Marshall during the Judiciary Committee hearings. He said the nominee showed a “surprising lack of knowledge” about the Reconstruction. amendments to the Constitution and contended that Mr. Marshall was legally unqualified for the job.

President Johnson announced on June 13 that Mr. Marshall I would succeed Justice Tom Clark, who had resigned the day before to avoid a conflict of interest with his son, Attorney General Ramsey Clark. The President termed Mr. Marshall, who is a grandson of a slave and son of a sleeping-car porter, as “best qualified by training and by very valuable service to the country” to fill the vacancy.

As a civil rights lawyer, Mr. Marshall tried 32 appeals before the Supreme Court and won 29 of them, including the landmark school desegregation decision of 1954. Immediately after the vote, the Senate majority leader, Mike Mansfield, said: “This is a shining hour for Mr. Marshall, President Johnson, the Senate and the United States of America.” He added that the confirmation had demonstrated that “what counts is what you are, not who you are or who your ancestors were.”

“A lot of people refuse to do things because they don’t want to go naked, don’t want to go without guarantee. But that’s what’s got to happen. You go naked until you die.”

Nikki Giovanni is one of the best-known African-American poets who reached prominence during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her unique and insightful poetry testifies to her own evolving awareness and experiences: from child to young woman, from naive college freshman to seasoned civil rights activist, from daughter to mother. Frequently anthologized, Giovanni’s poetry expresses strong racial pride and respect for family. Her informal style makes her work accessible to both adults and children. In addition to collections such as Re: Creation (1970), Love Poems (1997), and The Collected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (2003), Giovanni has published several works of nonfiction, children’s literature and recordings, including the Emmy-award nominated The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection (2004). A frequent lecturer and reader, Giovanni has taught at Rutgers University, Ohio State University, and Virginia Tech.

Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1943, the younger of two daughters in a close-knit family. She gained an intense appreciation for her African-American heritage from her outspoken grandmother, explaining in an interview, “I come from a long line of storytellers.” This early exposure to the power of spoken language influenced Giovanni’s career as a poet, particularly in her propensity towards colloquial speech. When Giovanni was a young child, she moved with her parents from Knoxville to a predominantly black suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio but remained close to her grandmother. Giovanni was encouraged by several schoolteachers and enrolled early at Fisk University, a prestigious, all-black college in Nashville, Tennessee. A black renaissance was emerging at Fisk, as writers and other artists of color were finding new ways of expressing their distinct culture. In addition to serving as editor of the campus literary magazine and participating in the Fisk Writers Workshop, Giovanni worked to restore the Fisk chapter of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Giovanni graduated with a B.A. in history in 1968 and went on to attend graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University in New York

Giovanni’s first published volumes of poetry grew out of her response to the assassinations of such figures as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Robert Kennedy, and the pressing need she saw to raise awareness of the plight and the rights of black people. Black Feeling, Black Talk (1967) and Black Judgement (1968) display a strong, militant African-American perspective as Giovanni explores her growing political and spiritual awareness. These early books, followed by Re: Creation (1970), quickly established Giovanni as a prominent new African-American voice. Black Feeling, Black Talk sold over ten thousand copies in its first year alone. Giovanni gave her first public reading to a packed audience at Birdland, the famous New York City jazz spot. Critical reaction to Giovanni’s early work focused on her more revolutionary poetry. Some reviewers found her political and social positions to be unsophisticated, while others were threatened by her rebelliousness. 

However, Giovanni’s first three volumes of poetry were enormously successful, answering a need for inspiration, anger, and solidarity in those who read them. She publicly expressed the feelings of people who had felt voiceless, finding new audiences beyond the usual poetry-reading public. Black Judgement sold six thousand copies in three months, almost six times the sales level expected of a poetry book. As she travelled to speaking engagements at colleges around the country, Giovanni was often hailed as one of the leading black poets of the new black renaissance. The prose poem “Nikki-Rosa,” Giovanni’s reminiscence of her childhood in a close-knit African-American home, was first published in Black Judgement. The poem expanded her appeal and became her most beloved and most anthologized work. During this time, she also made television appearances, later published as conversations with Margaret Walker and James Baldwin.

In 1969, Giovanni took a teaching position at Rutgers University. That year she also gave birth to her son, Thomas. Giovanni’s work shifted focus after the birth of her son and she made several recordings of her poetry set against a gospel or jazz backdrop. In addition to writing her own poetry, Giovanni offered exposure for other African-American women writers through NikTom, Ltd., a publishing cooperative she founded in 1970. Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, Carolyn Rodgers, and Mari Evans were among those who benefited from Giovanni’s work. Travels to other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, also filled much of the poet’s time and contributed to the evolution of her work. As she broadened her perspective, Giovanni began to review her own life. Her introspection led to Gemini: An Extended Autobiographical Statement on My First Twenty-five Years of Being a Black Poet (1971), which earned a nomination for the National Book Award.

In addition to writing for adults in Gemini and other works during the early 1970s, Giovanni began to compose verse for children. Among her published volumes for young readers are Spin a Soft Black Song (1971), Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People (1973), and Vacation Time (1980). Written for children of all ages, Giovanni’s poems are unrhymed incantations of childhood images and feelings which also focus on African-American history and explore issues and concerns specific to black youngsters. Giovanni’s later works for children include Knoxville, Tennessee (1994), The Sun Is So Quiet (1996) and Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship (2008). Giovanni’s children’s book Rosa (2005) was awarded a Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Giovanni’s popularity as a speaker and lecturer increased along with her success as a poet and children’s author. She received numerous awards for her work, including honors from the National Council of Negro Women and the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers. She was featured in articles for such magazines as Ebony, Jet, and Harper’s Bazaar. She also continued to travel, making trips to Europe and Africa, and her increasingly sophisticated and nuanced world view is reflected in her work from the period. Giovanni’s maturity is highlighted in My House (1972). Her viewpoint, the black revolutionary which made her famous, now includes a wide range of social concerns. Her rhymes are more pronounced, more lyrical, and gentler. Family love, loneliness, and frustration—themes which Giovanni had raged over in her earlier works—find softer expression. When Giovanni published Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day (1978), critics viewed it as one of her most somber works, full of emotional ups and downs, fear and insecurity, and the weight of everyday responsibilities.

Giovanni’s next book, Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983), echoes the political activism of her early work as she dedicates various pieces to Phillis Wheatley, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks. As Giovanni has moved through her middle years, her work has continued to reflect her changing concerns and perspectives. The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni, 1968-1995 (1996), which spans the first three decades of her career, was heralded by Booklist critic Donna Seaman as a “rich synthesis [that] reveals the evolution of Giovanni’s voice and charts the course of the social issues that are her muses, issues of gender and race.” Twenty of the fifty-three works collected in Love Poems (1997) find the writer musing on subjects as diverse as friendship, sexual desire, motherhood, and loneliness, while the remainder of the volume includes relevant earlier works.

Giovanni continues to supplement her poetry with occasional volumes of nonfiction. In her collection Racism 101 (1994), she looks back at her experiences of the civil rights movement and its aftermath. The book is a rich source of impressions of other black intellectuals, including writer and activist W.E.B. DuBois, writers Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Toni Morrison, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and filmmaker Spike Lee. In addition to publishing original writings, Giovanni has edited poetry collections like the highly praised Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate (1996), a compilation of works composed by African-American writers during the Harlem Renaissance.

Two volumes, Blues: For All the Changes (1999) and Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea: Poems and Not Quite Poems (2002) mark the crossover for Giovanni from the 20th to the 21st century. Blues, published after a battle with lung cancer and her first volume of poetry in five years, “offers thoughts on her battle with illness, on nature, and on the everyday—all laced with doses of harsh reality, a mix of socio-political viewpoints, and personal memories of loss,” wrote Denolynn Carroll of American Visions. Quilting includes, as the title suggests, “anecdotes, musings, and praise songs,” according to Tara Betts of Black Issues Book Review. In 2003, Giovanni published The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, an audio compilation. Spanning her poetry from 1968 to the present and ranging in content from motherhood to Emmett Till. “On the page, much of Giovanni’s writing seems rhetorical,” claimed Rochelle Ratner in Library Journal, but “hearing her read, dogma is replaced by passion.” Bauers praised the production: “The poems are worth the price all by themselves. Giovanni reads with gobs of energy and enthusiasm. Hers is the poetry of plainspeak.”

Giovanni has published no fewer than five books of poetry in the ten years since Blues. Her omnibus The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni (2003) collects poetry from each of her eleven volumes of poetry and includes a chronology and extensive notes for each selection. A review from Publishers Weekly noted that Giovanni’s “outspoken advocacy, her consciousness of roots in oral traditions, and her charismatic delivery place her among the forebearers of present-day slam and spoken-word scenes.” Giovanni is an avid supporter of slam, spoken-word and hip-hop, calling the latter “the modern equivalent of what spirituals meant to earlier generations of blacks.” Her writing continues to be accessible and impassioned in books like The Prosaic Soul of Nikki Giovanni (2003) and Acolytes (2007), though critics have noted a certain mellowing in tone. Bicycles: Love Poems (2009) was a follow-up to her earlier Love Poems. “Love is kept in check by age and experience,” wrote John Stoehr for the Charleston City Paper. “Giovanni doesn’t allow it to overwhelm her, as she did the righteous indignation in her youth. Love requires trust and balance, she writes, just like riding a bike.”

Giovanni has received numerous awards and accolades for her work including multiple NAACP Image Awards, the Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters, the Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award and over twenty honorary degrees from colleges and universities around the country. Giovanni has even had a species of bat named after her, the Micronycteris giovanniae. Giovanni taught at Virginia Tech during the tragic shooting in 2007 and composed a chant-poem which she read at the memorial service the day after. Of the poem, Giovanni said in an interview with the Virginian-Pilot “I try to be honest in my work, and I thought the only thing I can do at that point—because all I knew was that we are Virginia Tech. This was not Virginia Tech.”

Her more recent works include Acolytes, a collection of 80 new poems, and On My Journey Now. Acolytes is her first published volume since her 2003 Collected Poems. The work is a celebration of love and recollection directed at friends and loved ones and it recalls memories of nature, theater, and the
glories of children. However, Giovanni’s fiery persona still remains a
constant undercurrent in Acolytes, as some of the most serious
verse links her own life struggles (being a black woman and a cancer
survivor) to the wider frame of African-American history and the
continual fight for equality.

Giovanni’s collection Bicycles: Love Poems (2009) is a companion work to her 1997 Love Poems.They touch on the deaths of both her mother and her sister, as well as the massacre on the Virginia Tech campus. “Tragedy and trauma are the wheels” of the bicycle. The first poem (“Blacksburg Under Siege: 21 August 2006”) and the last poem (“We Are Virginia Tech”) reflect this. Giovanni chose the title of the collection as a metaphor for love
itself, “because love requires trust and balance. In Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid (2013), Giovanni describes falling off of a bike and her mother saying, “Come here, Nikki and I will pick you up.” She has explained that it was comforting to hear her mother say this, and that “it took me the longest to realize – no, she made me get up myself.”

Chasing Utopia continues as a hybrid (poetry and prose) work about food
as a metaphor and as a connection to the memory of her mother, sister,
and grandmother. The theme of the work is love relationships.In 2004, Giovanni was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards for her album The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection.This was a collection of poems that she read against the backdrop of gospel music.

She also featured on the track “Ego Trip by Nikki Giovanni” on Blackalicious’s 2000 album Nia. In November 2008, a song cycle of her poems, Sounds That Shatter the Staleness in Lives by Adam Hill, was premiered as part of the Soundscapes Chamber Music Series in Taos, New Mexico.She was commissioned by National Public Radio’s All Things Considered to create an inaugural poem for President Barack Obama. Giovanni read poetry at the Lincoln Memorial as a part of the bi-centennial celebration of Lincoln’s birth on February 12, 2009.

“Writing is … what I do to justify the air I breathe,” Giovanni wrote, explaining her choice of a vocation in Contemporary Authors. “I have been considered a writer who writes from rage and it confuses me. What else do writers write from? A poem has to say something. It has to make some sort of sense; be lyrical; to the point; and still able to be read by whatever reader is kind enough to pick up the book.”

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May 17th 1954: Brown v. Board of Education

On this day in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The decision declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional, striking down the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ segregation which had been enshrined in the 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson. The Brown case had been bought by African-American parents, including Oliver L. Brown, against Topeka’s educational segregation. It was argued before the Court by the chief legal counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Thurgood Marshall, who went on to become the first African-American Supreme Court justice in 1967. The Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, declared that segregation violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The landmark decision is often considered the start of the Civil Rights Movement, which fought for racial integration and full equality for African-Americans. The movement transformed American society, leading to the end of legal segregation and landmark legislation such as the Civil Rights Act (1964) and Voting Rights Act (1965). However, the mission of the movement, so eloquently expressed by Dr. King, to achieve full equality, is far from over.

“We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal
- Warren’s opinion for the Court

A new ad from a political action committee is focused on the possibility of Hillary Clinton making history as the first woman president of the United States.

The ad — titled Man Smart (Woman Smarter) and featuring the song of the same name — opens with a shot of Michelle Obama and her quote: “So much history yet to be made.” It then rolls through a “who’s who” of pioneers in women’s political history including the first woman Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman vice presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and the first African-American woman secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

The ad then pauses on a still of an open presidential lectern in the White House with the words “It’s time” suspended above. Next, we see a black-and-white still of a smiling Clinton. “Vote Hillary. #FirstWoman,” the ad concludes.

Michelle Obama featured in #firstwoman ad from pro-Clinton PAC

(Photo: Patriotic Artists and Creatives)

August 30 1967,  Thurgood Marshall is confirmed as the first African American Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Marshall served on the Court for the next 24 years, compiling a liberal record that included strong support for Constitutional protection of individual rights, especially the rights of criminal suspects against the government.

The Signs as U.S. Political Figures of the 1960s
  • Aries: William Westmoreland (Commander of U.S. Troops in Vietnam)
  • Taurus: Malcolm X (Civil Rights Activist)
  • Gemini: John F. Kennedy (U.S. President 1961-1963)
  • Cancer: John Glenn (First American to Orbit the Earth, 1962)
  • Leo: Neil Armstrong (First Man on the Moon, 1969)
  • Virgo: Lyndon B. Johnson (U.S. Vice President 1961-1963, U.S. President 1963-1969)
  • Libra: Dwight Eisenhower (U.S. President, 1953-1961)
  • Scorpio: Robert F. Kennedy (U.S. Attorney General 1961-1964, U.S. Senator from New York 1965-1968)
  • Sagittarius: Shirley Chisholm (First African-American Congresswoman,1969-1983)
  • Capricorn: Martin Luther King, Jr. (Civil Rights Activist)
  • Aquarius: Betty Friedan (Women's Rights Activist and Author of the Feminine Mystique)
  • Pisces: Earl Warren (Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court 1953-1969, Investigated JFK Assassination 1963-1964)
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Born on this day…

Thurgood Marshall, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court

July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993

Books:

A Picture Book of Thurgood Marshall

Davis A. Adler

Follows the life of the first African American to serve as a judge on the United States Supreme Court.

Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary

Juan Williams

From the bestselling author of Eyes on the Prize, here is the definitive biography of the great lawyer and Supreme Court justice.

Supreme Justice: Speeches and Writings

Thurgood Marshall & J Clay Smith Jr.

To understand fully the complexities of Thurgood Marshall’s work as a practicing lawyer, civil rights advocate for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, federal judge, and the first African American appointed Solicitor General of the United States and Justice of the United States Supreme Court, these texts are indispensable.

Quote:

“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody…bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”

Who was Franklin H. Williams?

For those even slightly familiar with Peace Corps history, you’ve almost definitely heard about Sargent Shriver, the first agency Director and the person credited right after President Kennedy with the agency’s founding.

Lesser known but equally due founding credit is Franklin H. Williams (above left, with Shriver), an African American civil rights lawyer, diplomat and foundation president who worked to improve interracial relations in the U.S. He joined Director Shriver as his Special Assistant in 1961 and later became the agency’s Africa Regional Director.

Williams’s career was illustrious before and after Peace Corps. He began his law career at the NAACP, first as assistant special counsel to Thurgood Marshall, where he argued cases before the Supreme Court, and later as the West Coast Regional Director. At the NAACP Williams conducted drives for legislation on minority employment and won the first judgment in a case involving school desegregation. As Assistant Attorney General in California, he created the state’s first Constitutional Rights Section within the Department of Justice. After serving on Peace Corps staff, Williams served as Ambassador to Ghana in the administration of President Johnson, and from 1970 to 1990 he served as the president of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, an organization established to enhance educational opportunities for Africans, African Americans and American Indians.

What sort of person would Justice Antonin Scalia have wanted President Obama to name as his successor? We know more than you might think.


In a largely overlooked passage in his dissent from the court’s decision in June establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, he left detailed suggestions.


Avoid “tall-building lawyers,” especially ones who work in skyscrapers in New York. Find someone who did not go to law school at Harvard or Yale. Look for a candidate from the Southwest. Consider an evangelical Christian.


Justice Scalia was criticizing the lack of diversity of the court he sat on, and he did not exclude himself. He was right as a factual matter: Supreme Court justices these days are by many measures remarkably similar, giving the court the insular quality of a private club or a faculty lounge.


The same-sex marriage decision, he said, underscored the obligation of the president to diversify the Supreme Court.


“To allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine,” Justice Scalia wrote, “is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.”


To be sure, the court is by some standards reasonably diverse. For the first time it has three women, one of whom is Hispanic. It has an African-American member, only the second in its history.


On the other hand, Justice Scalia wrote, the court “consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School.” Justice Scalia attended Harvard, as did five other members of the court. The other three went to Yale.


There is one asterisk, Justice Elena Kagan joked in 2012. “Justice Ginsburg spent one year at Columbia,” said Justice Kagan, a former dean of Harvard Law School. “You know, slumming it.” (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent two years at Harvard Law School but then moved to New York with her husband and earned her law degree from Columbia.)