On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court made history and secured its place as a protector of civil rights in America. On that day, the Court issued its ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education case. This marked the day that the issue of “separate but equal” was determined to be “inherently unequal” and inconsistent with the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The Brown case was one of the defining moments marking the start of the civil rights movement. It was greeted by African Americans and civil rights organizations with glee and triumph. However, other groups, particularly in the southern United States where school segregation was legal, were angered by the decision—and determined not to implement the Court’s decision.
The Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous. But the country was divided. People were made famous. Thurgood Marshall, who had been working with the NAACP and fighting for civil rights for many years, became a household name throughout the country. His life story is interesting and inspirational. Yet many Americans remain unfamiliar with this American hero.
Here are five great DVDs about Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court’s position in the civil rights movement.
And remember May 17th as the day that destroyed segregation!
Separate but Equal (1991)
Star: Sidney Poitier
An excellent docudrama about the context, arguments, and Supreme Court deliberations and decision in the iconic Brown v. Board of Education case. Excellent performance (as usual) by Sidney Poitier as Thurgood Marshall. Burt Lancaster appears as Chief Justice Earl Warren, making his usual strong presence. This movie gives insight into this important case and the significant characters involved. It is a fictional account based on thorough research. Highly recommended!
Simple Justice (1993)
Special Note: The book is also great!
This is a powerful and interesting story of the life of Thurgood Marshall from his law school days until the Brown v. Board of Education case. There are mixed reviews about the power of the performances but the story is strong and focused. Great to see the different characters like Earl Warren and his relationship with Marshall. A great educational tool!
Thurgood Marshall: And Justice for All (2005)
Special Note: A powerful document detailing the life of a great American
This excellent biography about Thurgood Marshall shows his beginning then follows his education and career until his appointment as a Supreme Court Justice. In usual form, Biography channel shows this complex man from a multi-dimensional perspective. This biography is gripping and scintillating. And it provides the context of the civil rights movement as the background.
Special Note: This movie stars Laurence Fishburne
The name says it all! Thurgood Marshall was one of the most important people of the 20th century and this DVD shows his contributions and impact. Yet it does lack the focus on his other work with the NAACP. Laurence Fishburne gives a stunning and compelling performance in this movie. This was a very good piece of history and a strong docudrama about the iconic Brown v. Board of Education case. A good family movie for a Sunday afternoon!
With All Deliberate Speed (2004)
Special Note: Contains interviews with famous people in the civil rights movement
This excellent document provides the basic information about the Brown v. Board of Education case. However, it takes a different spin, focusing on the aftermath of the Court decision to show that the issue was by no means decided. Many states actively opposed integrating their schools. Some counties even closed their school systems rather than allow African American children to attend! This document has very interesting interviews with big names in the civil rights movement, including Julian Bond and Vernon Jordan. Thurgood Marshall, Jr. also makes a moving appearance. This movie should be shown in high school civics classes throughout the country!
The End of Segregation!
Some events in American history should never be forgotten. The Brown v. Board of Education case on May 17, 1954 is one such event. And it was an event that made heroes. Or did these heroes make the event? Watch these great movies and decide for yourself!