Clarence Thomas's Black Nationalism

16 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2003


This Essay examines Clarence Thomas's opinions in education cases, extracting from them themes of black nationalism and strict individualism. These themes are in some tension with each other. I use a similar tension exhibited in two controversies over editorials W.E.B. Du Bois wrote for the NAACP magazine The Crisis as a way of exploring whether the tension can be reconciled. I argue that much of the tension can be resolved by treating black nationalism either as a choice made by African Americans as individuals or as a second-best strategy for strengthening the black community when its members lack effective choice in education. Some tension in Justice Thomas's opinions remains, however, and I suggest that the residual tension derives from Justice Thomas's personal experience in being regarded by dominant legal elites as unqualified for the position he holds.

Suggested Citation

Tushnet, Mark V., Clarence Thomas's Black Nationalism. Available at SSRN: or

Mark V. Tushnet (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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