Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was the first African American Supreme Court Justice, as well as an attorney in the famous Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka case regarding racial segregation in schools. Despite these major accomplishments, Thurgood Marshall had to overcome many personal and professional obstacles to make it to one of the highest positions possible in the United States.
Thurgood Marshall was the grandson of a slave and the son of railroad porter and elementary school teacher. Although Marshall went on to achieve great things, he came from a humble background during a time period when very few African Americans were openly successful in society. His humble beginners was the first major challenge that he had to overcome.
University of Maryland Rejection
One of Marshall's first major experiences of prejudice in American society was when the University of Maryland rejected his application due to race, an event that he considered integral to his later interest in civil rights. Although Marshall enrolled in Howard, this rejection haunted him throughout his life, and he was later a part in suing the University of Maryland for its racist admissions policies.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
As an attorney, Marshall had a great deal of success in civil rights issues, but his biggest success was in the challenging case of Brown v. the Board of Education Topeka, Kansas. By this time, the idea of "separate but equal" schools for black and white children had been long entrenched, particularly in the American South. Marshall argued that not only did separate schools cause unequal school conditions, but it also caused a feeling of humiliation and low self-worth in black children. Despite the success of this ruling, he had to overcome the furor that happened afterward; many lawmakers opposed this ruling and his part in arguing for it.
Supreme Court Years
In 1967, Thurgood Marshall was named the first African American Justice to the Supreme Court by president Lyndon Johnson. His journey to this position was not an easy one, though, as his early nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals by President John F. Kennedy was initially not supported by many Southern senators. While Marshall did eventually make it to the Supreme Court and into history, there was lingering anger in some political circles about his vocal support of civil rights and his part in the desegregation of schools.