Monthly Archives: May 2012

Mr. Thurgood Marshall…Hero


Led by Thurgood Marshall (middle of picture in coat) and a host of 'Dream Team' Attorneys as lawyers for the Plaintiffs, the United States Supreme Court issued its monumental ruling on school segregation in the Brown versus the Topeka Kansas Board of Education on May 17, 1954, with a unanimous (9–0) decision stating that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

The key holding of the Court was that, even if segregated black and white schools were of equal quality in facilities and teachers, segregation by itself was harmful to black students and unconstitutional. They found that a significant psychological and social disadvantage was given to black children from the nature of segregation itself, drawing on research conducted by Kenneth Clark assisted by June Shagaloff. This aspect was vital because the question was not whether the schools were "equal", which under Plessy they nominally should have been, but whether the doctrine of separate was constitutional. The justices answered with a strong "no".

It also held that school segregation violated the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The following year the Court ordered desegregation "with all deliberate speed."

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Thurgood Marshall graduated with honors from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. His exclusion from the University of Maryland's Law School due to racial discrimination, marked a turning point in his life. As a result, he attended the Howard University Law School, and graduated first in his class in 1933. Early in his career he traveled throughout the South and argued thirty-two cases before the Supreme Court, winning twenty-nine. Charles H. Houston persuaded him to leave private law practice and join the NAACP legal staff in New York, where he remained from 1936 until 1961. In 1939, Marshall became the first director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall as Solicitor General in 1965 and nominated him to a seat on the United States Supreme Court in 1967 from which he retired in 1991. Justice Marshall died in 1993.