Liberty at the Movies: Marshall

Looking for a good movie to commemorate African-American history month? Try Marshall.

Marshall is a story from the life of Thurgood Marshall, before he became a national figure as the lead attorney in Brown v Board of Education and the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.

The events of Marshall take place in 1940. At that time, Thurgood Marshall was a young attorney traveling around the country on behalf of the NAACP providing free legal aid to African-Americans falsely accused of crimes and facing an unfair “justice” system. Marshall is asked to travel to Bridgeport, Connecticut to defend a chauffeur accused of assaulting his employer.

Marshall is aided by Sam Friedman, a local attorney with no trial experience. Marshall browbeats Friedman into joining him as co-counsel when Friedman’s only intent was to help him get admitted into the Connecticut bar. Friedman ends up serving as lead counsel when the judge (who is a friend of the prosecutors father) refuses to allow Marshall to speak at the trial.

Marshall still directs the defense and the bulk of the film deals with Marshall and Friedman's efforts to deal with the institutional racism of the “Justice” system as they unravel the facts of the case to prove their client’s innocence. Fans of “procedural” will enjoy how the two lawyers piece together the real story with truth is stranger than fiction twist.

While working on the case both Marshall and Friedman are harassed by bigoted thugs and Friedman’s wife questions his judgement in working on the case “with all that is happening” in the world (a vague reference to the rise of the Nazis.)

Marshall also faces pressure to win the case to show the NAACP’s donors that their efforts are producing results. It also shows how Marshall sacrifices time with his wife to travel around the country.

Marshall is shown to be not only a man devoted to fighting for “equal justice under the law” but also a confident attorney. Chadwick Boseman, who previously played Jackie Robinson and James Brown (and Marvel’s Black Panther soon) does a great job as Marshall and Josh Gad is great as Sam Friedman.

Marshall tells a pivotal event in the career of a major historical figure. It also looks at how racism corrupts the Justice system, and is also an exciting procedural and courtroom drama. It’s a great movie to watch at anytime but particularly during black history month and if you download it here you can help Campaign for Liberty.

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