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Ted Cruz Asks African-American History Museum to Add Clarence Thomas

Ted Cruz
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers remarks at the Federalist Society 2016 National Lawyers Convention in Washington, U.S., November 18, 2016. |

Sen. Ted Cruz has urged leaders of the Smithsonian Institution to add Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to its museum of African-American History and Culture due to his "enormous legacy and impact."

In a letter, the Texas Republican said the new museum has been rightly praised for its detailed, complex and powerful portrayal of the African-American experience in the United States, but it shouldn't have omitted Clarence Thomas, the second African-American justice to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as the longest serving African-American justice.

The former Republican presidential candidate noted that "the tapestry of our nation's history includes both the disgraceful epoch of slavery and the inspiring endeavors of legendary African-American leaders like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Luther King, Jr."

Cruz wrote he believes the museum has "made a mistake by omitting the enormous legacy and impact of Justice Thomas, as well as his compelling background."

"Justice Thomas's dramatic journey from enduring entrenched racial discrimination to serving on the highest court in a country of 320 million people is one that should be shouted from the rooftops to all Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity," he wrote, explaining that the justice grew up in the segregated deep south of coastal Georgia.

"Because of his Geechee heritage, he experienced discrimination from other African Americans as well as from whites," Cruz quoted a Thomas expert, Mark Paoletta, as saying. "Thomas was fortunate that he was sent at age seven to live with his grandparents, who were both strong role models."

Justice Thomas' historic rise is "only half of the story," Cruz wrote. "This year, we commemorate the 25th anniversary of his appointment to the Supreme Court. In a quarter century, Justice Thomas has carved out one of the more profound and unique legacies in the Court's history. Never afraid to oppose the prevailing trends of the day, Justice Thomas has become the Court's foremost adherent to the idea that the Constitution should only be interpreted in accord with the document's historic and original meaning, as opposed to the 'living Constitution' doctrine that has pervaded both the Court and the legal academy for decades."

Cruz also noted that CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, often a harsh Thomas critic, admitted in The New Yorker in 2011 that Thomas had "emerged as an intellectual leader of the Supreme Court" whose influence has "been recognized by those who generally disagree with his views." No other Justice, Toobin observed, "studies the historical record with as much care, and enthusiasm, as Thomas."

The only reference to Justice Thomas is in regard to a single individual's "controversial accusation" against him at his Senate confirmation hearing 25 years ago, "an accusation that was contradicted by numerous witnesses and rejected by the Washington Post, the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the American public at the time," Cruz noted, adding that, "I am concerned that millions of Americans, of all ages, races, religions, and walks of life, when passing through this museum, will be subjected to a singular and distorted view of Justice Thomas, an African-American who survived segregation, defeated discrimination, and ascended all the way to the Supreme Court."

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