Thurgood Marshall – A Review

It seems unlikely that one of the nation’s most respected judges would write a book about his travels through the Black Hills, the region of South Dakota, as he was busy negotiating with the U.S. government over the boundaries of that reservation. So, why is Black Hills Thurgood Marshall so popular?

There are two parts to Black Hills Thurgood Marshall. The first part is the autobiography, which was originally published in 1972 and it tells the story of Marshall’s travels through the Black Hills. It was a highly controversial topic at the time, especially since it was widely thought that the numerous Native American tribes had stolen much of the land.

Because of the controversy, Marshall wanted to write an objective account of the area, using both written and oral accounts. He also decided to use newspaper accounts to add to the narrative. This book is an excellent read, because Marshall was able to interview all the key figures in the area, including the tribal leaders.

This second part of Black Hills Thurgood Marshall is what got him the attention of historians, who had wanted to know more about the area. The book was eventually republished, this time with most of the historical material in its original form.

How did Marshall make the story of the Black Hills so interesting? Marshall’s first job was as a law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist. That experience allowed him to view legal issues from the Native American point of view.

Marshall found that the largest of the native tribes, the Sioux, lived along a large central area but were spread out among the larger towns in the Black Hills area. This opened up a lot of space for Indian farmers to grow food, raising corn, beans, wheat, and eventually cotton.

By using oral history, Marshall was able to learn about the ways that the native Americans lived. For example, many Sioux villages had railroads, but no roads. Marshall was surprised by the lack of even a single barbed wire fence to protect their property.

Marshall also was surprised at the progress of white settlement. For instance, he found that the nearby railroad tracks had been destroyed by cattle rustlers. He discovered that some of the Native American communities in the area had become very successful at business and had even given portions of their land away for settlement.

Marshall’s first book was controversial and not very well received, but it was still well received as an American historical reference. Now, nearly fifty years later, he has written Black Hills Thurgood Marshall for a new generation of readers.

One thing I really liked about Black Hills Thurgood Marshall was the background material that Marshall included with the book. While the actual location of the area was only mentioned in passing, the history and landscape were fully explained. Many people will appreciate Marshall’s thorough research, in spite of the controversy surrounding the book.

Black Hills Thurgood Marshall is definitely worth reading for people interested in Native American history and for those who love travel books. In addition to exploring the Black Hills of South Dakota, Marshall included numerous other regions of interest. If you love history, this book is for you.