BaltimoreThurgood Marshall was born on July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, Maryland. His father was the son of a slave and his mother was a kindergarten teacher. William Marshall, Thurgood’s father, would listen to cases at the local courthouse and then retell them to Marshall. This laid the foundation for what would later become Marshall’s career.
EducationDuring his teen years, Marshall attended Baltimore’s Colored High and Training School, which later became Frederick Douglass High School. He proved to be an extremely bright student and became a star member of the debate team. He graduated from high school in 1926 and then attended a historically Black college in Pennsylvania, Lincoln University. Marshall graduated from college in 1930 with honors. He then applied to the University of Maryland Law School. Marshall was overqualified but was rejected because he was Black. He then decided to attend law school at Howard University where Charles Houston–pioneering civil rights lawyer–was the dean. Houston took Marshall under his tutelage.
CareerMarshall graduated magna cum laude from Howard University in 1933. He established his own practice in his hometown of Baltimore, but lacking the necessary experience, he never landed any substantial cases.
NAACPBy 1934, Marshall was working for the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Two years later, he moved to New York to work as legal counsel for the NAACP full time. Over the decades to come, Marshall won many cases that expunged institutional racism and inspired the Civil Rights Movement. Some of Marshall’s most famous cases were Murray v. Pearson, Chambers v. Florida, and Brown v. Board of Education. Brown v. Board of Education was the landmark case that eradicated the “Separate but Equal” doctrine and ultimately desegregated schools.
Second CircuitIn 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall as a judge for the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Marshall served as a judge for the next four years, issuing well over 100 decisions with not one being overturned by the Supreme Court. Later, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall to serve as the U.S. solicitor general. The U.S. solicitor general is the attorney who is designated to argue on behalf of the federal government before the Supreme Court. Marshall was the first Black U.S. solicitor general and won 14 out of the 19 cases that he argued over the course of two years.
Supreme CourtIn 1967, Marshall became the first Black person to become a Supreme Court Justice. During his 24-year tenure as a Justice, Marshall found himself to be the minority voice in an increasingly conservative Supreme Court. He retired from the Supreme Court in 1991.
LegacyThurgood Marshall died on January 24, 1993, at the age of 84. Marshall is often heralded as a powerful force within the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, contributing comparably to the efforts of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2017, a commemorative biopic of Marshall’s life starring Chadwick Boseman was released.
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer or We Buy Black. Thank you.**
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