How Jim Crow Informed Clarence Thomas' Jurisprudence - Encounter Books

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How Jim Crow Informed Clarence Thomas’ Jurisprudence

Myron Magnet on The Eric Metaxas Radio Show
June 05, 2019

I

n an interview with the Eric Metaxas Radio Show, author Myron Magnet explains how Jim Crow laws in the South spurred a young Clarence Thomas’ interest in judicial overreach. Those laws sprang from Supreme Court decisions in the 1870s that violated the meaning and purpose behind the 13th and 14th Amendments and left newly freed slaves open to abuse by state and local governments.

The Jim Crow laws that resulted from this overreach eventually spread to Savannah, Georgia, where Thomas grew up. “This is personal to [Thomas],” Magnet explains. “[He] couldn’t drink from this water fountain or walk across that park or use that certain library.”  When he arrived at the Supreme Court, Thomas sought to overturn the legal precedents that had resulted from the 1870s decisions.

His effort directly recalled the spirit of the Constitution’s original framers. “If we really are endowed with these rights, and if our Constitution was established to protect these rights,” says Magnet, “let’s hang on to it. Because nobody ever had a more up-to-date idea than leaving the citizen free to pursue his own happiness.” Thomas worked to preserve that idea, having first been inspired by the injustice of Jim Crow in his own life.

Learn more about Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution in the interview below:

In this Article

Clarence Thomas and the Lost Constitution

Clarence Thomas’s 1950s childhood, as a black kid in hyper-segregated Savannah, under the vigilant eye of his ferociously self-reliant grandfather, formed him into the independent-minded, responsible individualist that America’s Founding Fathers assumed—wrongly—would always be this nation’s unique character type. The old-fashioned virtues he learned gave him the strength to reject the 1960s victimology and identity politics in which his well-earned academic success marinated him. When, after decades of government service, constantly battling the responsibility-shirking orthodoxies of racial grievance, he rose to the Supreme Court—after his own confirmation hearings’ up-close experience of the rancorous race and sex politics that define our era—he was uniquely equipped, by character and culture, to understand and revere the Constitution as the Founders wrote it, “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

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