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It Only Took A Year: Clarence Thomas In At Black History Smithsonian

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent

An exhibit honoring Justice Clarence Thomas, the longest-serving black Supreme Court justice in American history, opened Sunday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Thomas, just the second black man to serve on the high court, was excluded from the museum when it first opened in 2016, though the law professor who famously accused him of sexual harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearings was given prominent billing in an exhibit on black activism in the 1990s.

Memorabilia belonging to free agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was incorporated into the Museum’s Black Lives Matter collection in August, a month in advance of Thomas’ inclusion.

Congress adopted resolutions condemning Thomas’ exclusion from the Museum after The Daily Caller News Foundation’s reporting in December.

The new exhibit, simply styled “The Supreme Court,” recognizes the achievements of both the nation’s black justices. Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights icon who litigated landmark cases before the Court, became the first black justice after his appointment by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967. Thomas, then a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, replaced Marshall on the Court in 1991.

Thomas was born in Georgia’s coastal lowlands among impoverished Gullah-speakers. By his own account, he did not master the English until his early 20s. He came of age in Jim Crow Savannah, where he was in turn ridiculed by white neighbors and classmates for his unpolished style. He went on to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and Yale Law School. Since graduating, he has been an aide in the U.S. Senate, chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a federal judge.

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