Monday, July 02, 2007

Happy birthday, Thurgood Marshall!

On this date in 1908, Thurgood Marshall, the descendant of slaves, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He eventually became, as most of us must surely know, the first African-American on the U.S. Supreme Court, having originally been the leader of the NAACP legal team that won the famous Brown v. Board of Education case calling for the desegregation of U.S. schools in 1954. One can only wonder what he would think of being "replaced" by Clarence Thomas who has helped, now, to begin the chipping away process to undo Marshall's work, especially since Marshall remained on the Court long after he wanted to step down, precisely because he was concerned about this very real possibility.

When Marshall spoke with the dean at the University of Maryland School of Law in 1930 about his applying there, he was instructed that he would not be accepted because he was African-American and the school was established on the principle of racial segregation. So he went to Howard University instead, graduated, and returned to Maryland where he represented another deserving young Black would-be law student -- Donald Gaines Murray -- and won (see photo above). As sweet as that must have been, it only applied to Maryland, which is why Marshall went on to press for the subsequent ruling in Kansas that gave the legal precedent national scope.

Blessings on all legal teams all over the world this day who are struggling against power to bring justice to all!

8 comments:

Peacechick Mary said...

Absolutely! Where would we be without the legal gang working for us? I almost went to law school, but decided to be a dance hall girl instead (hah!). But if I had become a lawyer, these are the kind of cases I would go work on.

Charles M. said...

Thanks for this info change. It fit right in with a blog article that I posted recently. And please don't get me started on Clarence Thomas...

Changeseeker said...

Mary: Me, too. But I became a sociologist (though I should probably have been a dance hall girl instead, since there are many who don't think I fit in "the academy"). Maybe I'll be a lawyer in my next life.

Charles: I know the feeling. Clarence Thomas is an embarrassment (but only one on a long, long list these days).

dnA said...

I miss Justice Marshall.

Changeseeker said...

dna: Me, too. He was one of a kind. And TOO brilliant! Could use a little of that right about now.

Casey Lartigue said...

Greetings,

It has been repeated in many places but it isn't true that Thurgood Marshall applied to the University of Maryland Law School.

At least, not according to Juan Williams in his book Thurgood Marshall: An American Revolutionary. See the start of chapter 5. There, Williams writes: "He never even bothered to apply to the University of Maryland Law School."

In the footnote, Williams notes: "No, I never applied there," Marshall told the author Richard Kluger in 1973, Brown Collection, Yale Univ. He reiterated it during my 1989 interview.

Changeseeker said...

Thanks for the clarification, Casey. You'll note that I modified my post to reflect the most correct presentation of Marshall's experience. His not applying in the face of the dean's statement is certainly understandable. The only way to get in would have been to put his fate in the hands of a lawyer and sue. Marshall, instead, chose to become the necessary lawyer and come back to kick UM's butt personally. I guess that was just the kind of guy he was.

Casey Lartigue said...

What is also interesting to me is, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story" about Lloyd Gaines. That is, there is no rest of the story with him. He disappeared soon after the Court decision...

CJL