Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993), an African American lawyer and US Supreme Court justice, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Marshall attended a segregated high school in Baltimore and then went to Lincoln University, where the student body was all black and the faculty all white. Because the University of Maryland Law School refused to accept African Americans, Marshall’s mother pawned her engagement and wedding rings so he could attend Howard Law School. With the legislative and executive branches of government largely indifferent to racial discrimination, Marshall turned to the courts to prove that separate facilities for blacks and whites were inherently unequal. He won twenty-nine of the thirty-two cases he argued before the Supreme Court. In his biggest victory—Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in 1954—he persuaded a unanimous Supreme Court to rule that the “separate but equal” doctrine was unconstitutional.

As the NAACP’s lead counsel, he won equal pay for black teachers; forced segregated courts to allow blacks to serve on juries; and ended the use of restrictive covenants that barred blacks and Jews from segregated neighborhoods. He also persuaded the Supreme Court to end the practice of all-white primaries and to outlaw segregated seating on interstate buses and trains. He was the target of numerous death threats, and on at least two occasions he was threatened by lynch mobs. In 1961, he became a judge on the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the post of solicitor general, the government’s chief trial lawyer. Two years later, Marshall became the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court. Marshall died in 1993 at the age of eighty-four.

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