Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall | Thurgood Marshall was a brilliant legal mind

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall | Thurgood Marshall was a brilliant legal mind‘You need to work twice as hard’ this is a statement that almost every other African American parent has told their child. Why is this? A lot of stereotypes abound regarding African Americans as people. These range from being lazy,

to being social misfits unable to abide by the law, to being dependents of welfare. In fact, one simply ought to look at the history of the United States in order to fully comprehend the journey that African Americans have taken. They were first imports who were worked as slaves. At this time they were regarded as property and their owners had virtually every legal right to do with them as they so wished.

After their emancipation, African Americans had to contend with Jim Crow laws. These laws in effect rendered them second class citizens. After the Jim Crow laws had been done away with and the Civil Rights Movement achieved the suffrage of African Americans, they had to deal with stereotypes. Stereotypes that generally meant that as a people they were not good enough.

Thurgood Marshall | Thurgood Marshall was a brilliant legal mind

What in effect this did was to put a glass ceiling on what an African American could achieve and what was the general expectation. When an African American failed in school, they joined a gang, got incarcerated, became teenage parents, got shot by the police or in a drive-by shooting, or became drug related criminals; they became a statistic used as proof to the statistics of African American incompetence.

Individual freedom of choice was never considered as African Americans were always viewed as a group, no wonder the ethnic profiling. Nevertheless, strong examples of Africa Americans who defied the stereotypes to rise to great heights exist. A keen example of this is Thurgood Marshall who rose to become a Supreme Court judge (“Thurgood Marshall – Black History –”, 2016). Through his struggle to achieve, he inspired many other African Americans and was an active participant in the justice for African Americans.

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall was born in July 2 1908 in Baltimore Maryland. When looking at his birthday, it is critical to relate it to the history of the United States in relation to African Americans. Slavery had ended less than half a century earlier and the effects of it were full throttle. It is fundamental to understand that while a constitutional amendment had done away with slavery, the social aspects behind race relations were still very strong. Most whites were still having trouble relating to African Americans as people and not as property. In fact, the father of Thurgood Marshall was the son of a slave (“Thurgood Marshall”, 2016). The way the system of slavery in the United States worked, it was hereditary

. That meant that all children born of a slave belonged to the owner of the slave. In essence, just a generation past, Thurgood Marshall could have been someone’s property. It is in this setting that Thurgood Marshall found himself in America. A nation where race was a very defining factor; so defining that it could mean the difference between getting killed or serving a lengthy prison sentence and not.

Given the nature of segregation during the time, Thurgood Marshall as was common with African American children at the time attended all black schools from elementary to college level. Inherently, the facilities that were allocated to white schools were infinitely much better than those allocated to all black schools, despite this; one cannot put a ceiling on a brilliant mind. Thurgood Marshall graduated from Lincoln University as an honors student. However, as he was to see, the fact that he was black overshadowed his qualifications. This he saw when despite being academically and professionally overqualified, he was denied a job at University of Maryland Law School purely on racial grounds. This action made Thurgood Marshall join another historically black college Howard University where he enrolled for law. It is here where he fell under the tutelage of Charles Houston a civil rights lawyer who would later influence Thurgood Marshall to assert himself. It is not a surprise that he graduated magna cum laude in 1933(“Thurgood Marshall – Black History –”, 2016).

Thurgood and the Civil Rights Movement

In analyzing the civil rights movement, it is very easy for a person to only remember those who led from the street. They include Martin Luther King jr, Malcolm X, Mohammed Ali among others. They were on the street and they garnered a lot of media attention. However, one has to put in mind that for the civil rights movement to succeed, it was supported by landmark Supreme Court rulings. In order to achieve these rulings they had to have been argued out by competent lawyers. A fine example of such a lawyer is Thurgood Marshall (“Thurgood Marshall”, 2016).

Landmark cases that Thurgood Marshall argued and won

Murray v. Pearson

Much like Thurgood, Charles Murray had been denied entrance into the University of Maryland Law School purely on the basis of race. Alongside his mentor Charles Houston, in 1934, they argued the case heavily faulting the nature of the legal basis of de jure segregation. In a sweeping victory, they won the case weakening the basis of de jure racial segregation and the case concluded on January 1936 (“Thurgood Marshall”, 2016).

Chambers v. Florida & Smith v. Allwright

It was common for black people to get incarcerated based on very little evidence. The legal threshold required to charge a black person was not the same as that required to charge a white person. In most instances, a confession was enough even if it was obtained through dubious means such as torture or coercion. It was such a case in 1940 before the Supreme Court that Thurgood was able to defend four black men convicted of murder based on a confession that was tortured from them. The case which was called Chambers v. Florida ended with a win by Thurgood for the four black men (“Thurgood Marshall”, 2016).

Smith v. Allwright

In 1944, Thurgood was able to successfully argue this case that saw the Supreme Court bring to an end the use of whites only primary elections by the Democratic Party in Southern States (“Thurgood Marshall”, 2016).

Brown v. Board of Education

In what would come to be a historic ruling, that was one of the crowning moments of the civil rights movement and racial relations in America, Marshall through this case was able to have the Supreme Court overturn the Plessy v. Fergusson 1896 ruling of separate but equal. By showing the inherent untrue nature of the doctrine of separate but equal, the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that education facilities should be racially inclusive (“Thurgood Marshall”, 2016).

Other achievements

It was no denying that despite the racial climate, Thurgood Marshall was a brilliant legal mind. This led to President JF Kennedy appointing him as a judge for the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and later as the US solicitor general. The crowning moment came in 1967 when he was sworn in as a Supreme Court judge. It is fundamental to understand that in all his appointments, he was the first African American to serve in such appointment shattering the racial glass ceilings that existed (“Thurgood Marshall, Civil Right Lawyer, Supreme Court Justice”, 2016).


It is very easy to overlook the impact that Thurgood Marshall had in race relations in the United States. At most times, people remember those who led demonstrations as that is where the action was and what anybody could join. However, in the court room, Thurgood Marshall did achieve more for the African American people than all the riots and demonstration could have achieved. In its capacity, the Supreme Court has the power to create laws and overturn those unconstitutional. By having a strong faith in protection of individual liberties and freedoms, Thurgood Marshall was able to through the Supreme Court set laws that ushered in a new era for all African Americans for generations to come.


(2016). Retrieved 5 December 2016, from

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. (2016). Education. Retrieved 5 December 2016, from

Thurgood Marshall.(2016) Retrieved 5 December 2016, from

Thurgood Marshall – Black History – Retrieved 5 December 2016, from

Thurgood Marshall, Civil Right Lawyer, Supreme Court Justice. (2016)Flickr. Retrieved 5 December 2016, from

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