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Thurgood Marshall

Learn more about the life of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
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U.S. lawyer and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
Birthplace: Baltimore, MD
Education: Howard University

Thurgood Marshall was the first black Supreme Court Justice. Thurgood was born on July 2, 1908, in Baltimore, MD. In 1930, Marshall graduated with honors from Lincoln University, the nation's oldest black college. After reading W.E.B. DuBois' essays on racism, he began his fight for equality by joining other students in a "sit in" at a segregated theater.

Thurgood went on to Howard University Law School and graduated magna cum laude. He returned to Baltimore and began his private practice during the Great Depression. In 1936, he joined the legal staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Marshall became director of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund and continued to challenge racial segregation.

In 1954, Thurgood won the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that ended the legal separation of black and white students in public schools. During the trial, he was asked to define "equal". Marshall replied, "Equal means getting the same thing, at the same time and in the same place." The success of the Brown case made Marshall a national hero and helped spark the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall to the U. S. Supreme Court in 1967. While serving as a Supreme Court Justice, he fought to end discrimination based on race or sex and supported affirmative action. He was one of the last remaining liberal members of the Supreme Court when he retired in 1991. He died of heart failure in 1993 at the age of 84.

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