Thurgood Marshall and Malcolm X were two major figures in Black America. Yet it seems they often took jabs at each other. Marshall, the first Black American named to the Supreme Court, especially did not appear to be impressed by Malcolm X and his activist works.
Marshall, a lawyer and civil rights activist, served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from October 1967 until October 1991. Meanwhile, Malcolm X was a Muslim minister with the Nation of Islam until he parted ways with the organization in 1964. A prominent figure during the civil rights movement, he promoted Black empowerment.
The two did not get along despite their influence on the Black community.
Malcolm X said that Marshall was the white man’s puppet. They did meet once and at the time, according to New World Encyclopedia, met once, and Malcolm gifted Marshall with a gun. Marshall declined the gift saying his wife would not allow weapons into their house.
Once when asked his thoughts about Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall remarked in 1991 that Malcolm X “is a great person, a great Negro and I ask a simple question: What did he ever do? Name me one concrete thing he ever did,’” The Chicago Tribune reported.
Marshall may have thought Malcolm X was ineffective, but many questioned Marshall’s own legacy when it was revealed in 1996 by USA Today that he had been a Federal Bureau of Investigation informant in the 1950s.
“Like many other civil rights leaders, Marshall often criticized the FBI publicly — especially in the 1940s, when he demanded greater FBI efforts to investigate lynchings and other crimes against African Americans. Some 1,300 pages of FBI documents released in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act reveal another side to the relationship,” Duke University reported.
USA Today first broke the news after the FBI responded to a request for the agency’s files on Marshall through a Freedom of Information request; it took three years for the FBI to turn over roughly 1,300 pages’ worth of material on Marshall.
Besides working as an informant for the FBI, Marshall also sought the help of the FBI for various issues he felt were important. He turned to the FBI for help to fight the Communist Party efforts to infiltrate and influence the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1996. Marshall had been the general counsel for the NAACP.
Photo: Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court photo