Thurgood Marshall was an influential leader of the civil rights movement whose tremendous legacy lives on in the pursuit of racial justice.
marshall founded ldf in 1940 and served as its first director-counselor. he was the architect of the legal strategy that ended the country’s official segregation policy and was the first African-American to serve on the supreme court. He served as an Associate Justice from 1967 to 1991 after being nominated by President Johnson.
marshall retired from banking in 1991 and passed away on january 24, 1993 in washington d.c. At the age of 84, civil rights and social change emerged through painstaking and persistent litigation efforts, spearheaded by Thurgood Marshall and the Legal Defense Fund. through the courts, he ensured that blacks enjoyed the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship.
when was thurgood marshall born?
Marshall was born on July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of William Marshall, a railroad porter, who later worked on the staff of the Gibson Island Club, a whites-only country club, and Norma Williams, a teacher. of school. One of his great-grandparents had been taken as a slave from the Congo to Maryland, where he was eventually freed. Marshall graduated from Lincoln University in 1930 and applied to the University of Maryland Law School; he was denied admission because the school was still segregated at the time. So Marshall enrolled in Howard University School of Law, where he graduated at the top of his class and met his mentor, Charles Hamilton Huston, with whom he enjoyed a lifelong friendship. In a 1992 interview published in the Journal of the American Bar Association, Marshall wrote that “Charlie Houston insisted that we be social engineers rather than lawyers,” a mantra he upheld and embodied.
how did thurgood marshall help the naacp?
Immediately after graduation, Marshall opened a law office in Baltimore and, in the early 1930s, represented the local chapter of the NAACP in a successful lawsuit challenging the University of Maryland Law School for its segregation policy. In addition, he successfully filed lawsuits involving other state universities. In 1936, Marshall became the NAACP’s chief legal counsel. the initial goal of the naacp was to channel equal resources to black schools. Marshall successfully challenged the board to only litigate cases that would address the heart of segregation.
when did thurgood marshall establish the naacp legal defense and educational fund?
After founding the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1940, Marshall became the key strategist in the effort to end racial segregation, notably by meticulously challenging Plessy v. Ferguson, the court-sanctioned legal doctrine that called for “separate but equal” structures. for whites and blacks. Marshall won a series of court decisions that gradually overturned that doctrine, ultimately leading to Brown v. board of education, which argued before the supreme court in 1952 and 1953, ultimately striking down “separate but equal” and acknowledging that segregation greatly diminished students. ‘ self esteem. asked by judge felix frankfurter during the argument what he meant by “equal”, mr. Marshall replied, “Same means getting the same thing, at the same time, and in the same place.”
in 1957, the ldf, led by marshall, became a completely separate entity from the naacp with its own leadership and board of directors and has remained a separate organization to this day.
As the chief legal architect of the civil rights movement, Marshall traveled constantly to small, dusty, and scorching courtrooms throughout the South. at one point, he oversaw as many as 450 simultaneous cases. Among other important victories, he successfully challenged an all-whites primary election in Texas, as well as a case in which the Supreme Court ruled that restrictive covenants barring blacks from buying or renting homes were unenforceable in state courts.
who appointed thurgood marshall to the supreme court?
in 1961, president kennedy appointed marshall to the united states. court of appeals for the second circuit in which he wrote 112 opinions, none of which were reversed on appeal. Four years later, President Johnson appointed him Solicitor General, and in 1967 President Johnson nominated him to the Supreme Court to which he commented, “I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to keep it. I hope to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband.” On the nomination, President Johnson later said that Marshall’s nomination was “the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place.”
why is thurgood marshall important?
As a Supreme Court Justice, he became increasingly shocked and disappointed when the majority of the court withdrew from the remedies it deemed necessary to address the remains of Jim Crow. In his Bakke dissent, he wrote: “In light of the unfortunate history of discrimination and its devastating impact on black lives, bringing the black into the mainstream of American life should be a paramount state interest.” . not to do so is to guarantee that the united states will forever remain a divided society.”
In particular, Marshall fervently dissented in cases where the Supreme Court upheld death sentences; he wrote more than 150 dissenting opinions on cases in which the court refused to hear death penalty appeals. Marshall’s notable majority opinions for the Supreme Court include: Amalgamated Food Employees Union v. Logan Valley Plaza, in 1968, which determined that a shopping center was a “public forum” and could not exclude picketers; stanley v. Georgia, in 1969, held that pornography, when privately owned, could not be prosecuted. “If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state does not have to tell a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he can read or what movies he can see”; ybounds v. Smith, who held that state prison systems must provide their inmates with “adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in law.”
marshall’s status as a pillar of the civil rights movement is confirmed and defended by the ldf and other organizations that strive to uphold the principles of civil rights and racial justice. His legacy cannot be underestimated: he worked diligently and tirelessly to end what was the official US doctrine of separate but equal.
the thurgood marshall legacy lives on with the thurgood marshall institute, a multidisciplinary center within the naacp legal defense fund. Learn more about the institute’s vision and its fight to continue thurgood marshall’s honorable mission for racial justice.