Since its founding in 1948, the Columbia Center for Oral History (formerly the Oral History Research Office) has worked to capture and preserve the extraordinary experiences of ordinary Americans. Today, the CCOH archive contains more than 8,000 interviews, which elucidate some of the most historically significant developments of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Reverberating from our archives are the voices of African American leaders, educators, artists, entertainers and change agents such as Thurgood Marshall, Sadie T. M. Alexander, James Baldwin and Smokey Robinson, who have shattered ceilings, crossed boundaries, redefined genres and lived history. Never confined to one region or historical experience, our collection offers a comprehensive view of the events and issues that have shaped the African American experience.
As part of CCOH’s ongoing effort to digitize our collection and make our archives available to the public, we are marking Black History month with “Voices of Change,” highlighting some of our most fascinating and inspiring excerpts — starting with a selection from a 1977 interview with Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Well-known for leading the charge against the “separate but equal” doctrine in public education in the landmark case of Brown V. Board of Education, Marshall argued more cases before the United States Supreme Court than anyone else in history, before becoming the Court’s 96th justice and its first African American justice. In the following clip Marshall recounts how he first learned of his appointment and his candid conversation with President Lyndon Johnson on the evolving nature of their relationship on the morning of his appointment in the Oval Office.