Justice Thurgood Marshall and The Bridges for Us to Build

Civil Rights Memorial from the State Capitol of Virginia

My father, daughter, Eleanor, and I took a walk this morning around Virginia’s Capitol Square in Richmond this morning. Having grown up in Richmond, I haven’t been back for a while–it was good to be back on the grounds surrounding the Thomas Jefferson designed building. The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful as we walked by the impressive 1858 Washington Memorial, as well as memorials to Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and Dr. Hunter McQuire. There are a number of other memorials there as well–you should go visit. To me, the most impactful memorial was the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial. Dedicated in 2008, it presents a clear and definitive counter-point to the older memorial to Harry F. Byrd, Sr., the creator of and leader of “massive resistance” to Civil Rights.  Byrd’s Memorial, already seeming rather mundane due to its proximity to the epic Washington Memorial, is also dwarfed by the Civil Rights Memorial.

The quotation from Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall above one of the four sides to the memorial creates an essential challenge for us–particularly in a moment when so much is happening that seems to pull us apart:

“The Justice System can force open doors and sometimes even knock down walls, but it cannot Build Bridges. That Job belongs to you and me.” 

We will be in Richmond until Saturday enjoying Thanksgiving with family, but I know I will take Marshall’s challenge with me back to Memphis. When reflect on Marshall’s words, I think of the places in Memphis where I see the work of building bridges taking place. A number come to mind for me–the Church Health Center, Bridge Builders, Serve901, City Leadership, City Current, and the Crosstown Concourse come immediately to mind. There are so many more. This work remains and will remain important and essential. We all need to put ourselves in this picture.

Civil Rights Memorial from the State Capitol of Virginia, plus Eleanor


Marker Beside the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial
Marker Beside the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial


The State Capitol of Virginia
The State Capitol of Virginia

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