(Photo by Mark Garvin)
Thurgood is a crash course in the life and career of Thurgood Marshall. The Walnut Street Theatre’s Independence Studio on 3 places audiences at Howard University School of Law as we witness Thurgood Marshall himself (channeled by actor Johnnie Hobbs, Jr.) give a lecture on his achievements. You can be a part of this lecture now through February 9th.
Most of us already know a bit about Marshall’s role as a lawyer, Civil Rights activist, and ultimately the first African American Supreme Court Justice. But, similar to many important people in American history, we only have a small understanding of his journey and background. In Thurgood, written by George Stevens, Jr., we listen as Marshall himself unfolds his own story. From childhood to his education and career beginnings and nearly through the end of his life, audience members are experience the history of Thurgood Marshall in this powerful one-act, one-person show.
Marshall got his start in a time where African American’s were heavily mistreated. He never stood down, though, and fought hard to put an end to racism and segregation. Marshall argued against Plessy v. Ferguson (“separate but equal” public facilities for black and white citizens), and saw victory in the Brown v. Board of Education case so that children no longer were forced to attend segregated schools. The civil rights movement very well could have been slower in progression had it not been for the work and dedication of Thurgood Marshall.
Four-time Barrymore Award nominee and winner of the Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award, Johnnie Hobbs Jr., is powerful and credible as Marshall. As Thurgood Marshall, Hobbs captures the audience and we truly feel like we’re sitting in the presence of a prominent historical figure. The show has been performed previously with James Earl Jones as Marshall during the regional premiere in Connecticut and followed by Laurence Fishburne on Broadway. Hobbs has, no doubt, done justice to this big role; anyone who is a historian or interested in knowing more about the progress of our country will be lucky to learn from him.
Thurgood Marshall made an incredible impact on the rights of African Americans in the United States. Through Thurgood, we hear him describe his proudest moments, his scariest moments (as he entered the deep South on various trips and was always unsure if he’d make it home), and the defining moments in his life and career. This play really gives us all an insight on how much good he did during a time when many believed that he, as well as others, would fail at making a difference.