Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Alice  Walker

Mckenzie  Barnwell 

Thurgood Marshall and his Path to Brown v. Board of Education

Alice Walker: Oppression and Liberation in the Search for Identity

In a number of her novels, Alice Walker depicts a black woman’s search for identity in the face of judgements against and oppression of her race, gender, or sexuality. In one novel in particular, The Color Purple, the female protagonist Celie marries into an abusive relationship that deprives her of an individual identity. In order to lift herself out of the domestic abuse that dominates her, she seeks help from another strong woman, Shug Avery, who teaches her to assert her independence and seize the respect she has always craved. Celie takes Shug’s advice and leaves her husband while reclaiming her sexual identity through a romantic relationship with Shug. She regains her sense of self through the act of forgiving her husband even though he tried tearing her down into “nothing” and ultimately they are even able to become friends after he helps her to reunite with her estranged sister. In order to find their true selves, the female protagonists in all of Walker's novels have to navigate society they are born into by rejecting the judgements it projects based on their gender and race.

In the same way that Walker’s female protagonists overcome discrimination, Thurgood Marshall had to overcome pre-existing judgement of black men to become the first African American Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall was one of the most well-known African American lawyers of his time who fought for justice and equality. He used his legal knowledge and racial background to argue for equal education regardless of race, age, or gender. His most well known case was Brown v. Board of Education in which he fought for the desegregation of schools. In this case the Supreme Court overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision and ruled that “separate but equal” was no longer constitutional and that black and white children deserve equal access to the same education. Throughout Brown v. Board of Education, Thurgood Marshall overcame obstacles surrounding the justice system and broke stereotypes and barriers for black men. Marshall became a model of success and inspiration for the black community throughout America.

Major Works Consulted:

Levy, Peter B. The Civil Rights Movement. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Tackach, James. Brown v. Board of Education. San Diego: Lucent Books, 1998.
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
---. Meridian. New York: Harcourt, 2003.
Photo Credit: “Alice Walker.” Famous Authors.