Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > History > 118. Thurgood Marshall

118.  Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993).  Transcript of Oral History Interview. New York: Columbia University, Oral History Research Office, 1977. Oral History Research Office

The Columbia University Oral History Research Office is the oldest and largest organized oral history program in the world. Founded in 1948 by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Allan Nevins, the oral history collection now contains nearly 8,000 taped memoirs, and nearly 1,000,000 pages of transcript. These memoirs include interviews with a wide variety of historical figures, including Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. Some interviews, conducted in the late 1940s, contain recollections dating back to the second administration of Grover Cleveland. An interview with Charles C. Burlingham conducted in 1949 opens with a discussion of the drafts riots during the U. S. Civil War. This transcript of Thurgood Marshall's oral history interview, conducted by Ed Edwin in Washington, D.C. in February, 1977, captures something of his unique presence, even on paper.

The Oral History Research Office has never confined its work to one area of historical experience or to one region. It is the only oral history program in the country which conducts interviews over a broad range of fields and areas. Thus it has attracted scholars from around the world, whose research has examined almost every aspect of our recent past. The focus of the collection is United States political and cultural history. However, there are large projects in the history of China and Argentina, and some scattered interviews on the histories of other countries. Each year approximately 200 to 300 interviews are added to the collection through the efforts of the OHRO itself and by donation. These interviews generally fall into two categories: longer biographical memoirs and shorter interviews focused on specific topics or experiences.

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