Thurgood, Jonathan, and Pauli, Pray for us

Today we remember Thurgood Marshall, Lawyer and Jurist who died in 1993 who, along with other Episcopalians, Jonathan Daniels and the Rev. Pauli Murray, blazed a trail of freedom witnessing to Christ along the way.

From an essay by Byron Rushing on the House of Deputies web site:

Today, May 17, in the Calendar of the Episcopal Church, we commemorate Thurgood Marshall, who served as a deputy to the 61st General Convention in 1964. Born in Baltimore in 1908, Marshall had an exceptional career as a civil rights attorney and was appointed Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1967. He retired from the Court in 1991 and died January 24, 1993. The church chose May 17 as his day to also commemorate the unanimous ruling of the U. S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, released on that date in 1954.

Beyond ruling that racially separate public schools were inherently unequal, the Court not only overruled the legal concept of separate but equal, but its action was also a spark for the modern civil rights movement. Over the next 14 years African Americans and their allies would struggle to end all aspects of legal segregation.

By 1965, the central strategy for the civil rights movement was to restore to all black citizens the right to vote. This right, guaranteed specifically to them in the Fifteenth Amendment, had been denied to virtually all black Americans in the South since the end of Reconstruction.

Early that year the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) invited Martin Luther King to Selma, Alabama, to join and invigorate their voting rights work there. The Selma to Montgomery marches began on March 7 with a violent attack on the marchers by Alabama state troopers seen on television news by Americans throughout the country, including President Lyndon Johnson. Johnson filed the Voting Rights Act ten days later. Meanwhile, King and SNCC called on Americans to join and complete the march from Selma to Montgomery on March 25th. Among the hundreds of Episcopalians who came responding to a call from the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity (ESCRU) were Judy Upham and Jonathan Daniels, students at what is now Episcopal Divinity School.

Daniels completed the march and returned to work that summer in Alabama. He was arrested in a demonstration and on August 20, 1965, and after being released from jail, was murdered protecting seventeen-year-old, Ruby Sales, from a threatening, armed, deputy sheriff. The Voting Rights Act had passed Congress and was signed by Johnson on August 6….

…Daniels was murdered in Lowndes County, where more than 80 percent of the residents were African Americans. Yet the jury that acquitted Tom Coleman, the man who shot him, was entirely white. State law and local practice made it all but certain that juries in Alabama would be composed entirely of white men, and on the heels of the verdict in Daniels’ case, a team of lawyers, including Pauli Murray, who later become the first African American woman ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, prepared to challenge the law.

Murray had already played an important role in the civil rights movement. In 1950, she wrote States’ Laws on Race and Color, a critique of existing statutes that Marshall and lawyers for the NAACP drew on in shaping their arguments in Brown v. Board of Education and other important cases. Marshall referred to the book as “the bible” of the civil rights movement.

As a result of the work of Murray and others, a U. S. District Court in Alabama ruled in 1966 in White v. Crook a ruled that jury service was a right guaranteed to all citizens under the 14th amendment.

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