When the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opened nearly a year ago, there was one very prominent person missing: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Apparently, being a judge on the highest court in the land isn't so great if you happen to be conservative. Seems the son of a farm worker and a domestic worker — both descendants of American slaves — rising to prominence doesn't matter if you aren't a liberal.
For its first year, the museum on Constitution Avenue not far from the Washington Monument acknowledged only Anita Hill, the woman who accused Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 Senate confirmation hearing. An exhibit featured testimonials praising Hill's courage while all but snubbing Thomas.
The museum made room for the Black Panthers, the history of hip-hop and the violent Black Lives Matter movement, but couldn't spare an inch for the second black man on the Supreme Court.
Yet over the past weekend, the museum installed a new exhibit featuring Thomas. The display honors Thomas and Thurgood Marshall, the first black man to ascend to the high bench.
"There is a label for Thurgood Marshall and one for Clarence Thomas, the two African Americans who have served on the Supreme Court," Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution, told The Washington Times. She told the paper the exhibit includes a picture of Thomas, the cover of Jet magazine on which he appeared in 1991 and the inscription, “Clarence Thomas: From Seminary School to Supreme Court.”
Ronald D. Rotunda, distinguished professor of jurisprudence at the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University, said Justice Thomas deserves to be recognized for his contributions to constitutional jurisprudence, his record of public service and his inspirational life story.
“Like Thurgood Marshall, he has been a very influential justice, and like Thurgood Marshall, he has risen from humble beginnings,” Mr. Rotunda said. “His father left him, his grandparents raised him. The 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. turned him to the law. He left a successful corporate law practice and turned to public service. That path led him to the Supreme Court.”
Mr. Rotunda said it’s “surprising that it has taken so long” for the museum to acknowledge such a “seminal figure on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Linda St. Thomas, chief spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Institution, said the exhibit includes a picture of Justice Thomas, the cover of Jet magazine on which he appeared in 1991 and the inscription, “Clarence Thomas: From Seminary School to Supreme Court.”
She said the museum is “evolving and other things will change over time.”