Thurgood Marshall is best known as the Lawyer who argued and won the Brown vs. Board of Education case before the Supreme Court and for being the first Black to serve on the court. Once again, it has to be said, that these events didn’t happen hundreds of years ago, they happened scarcely more than a generation ago. Schools were segregated and that was just the way things were. The proponents of this system called it ‘separate but equal’ but that was all a con, we were being bamboozled, hoodwinked.
It was separate and unequal, and for the longest time, it must have seemed like that would always be the natural way of things. The beautiful thing about the Brown Vs. Board of education case was that it won by beating the establishment at its own game and using its own tools. In the end, the battle to overturn the much maligned ‘Plessy v. Ferguson’ couldn’t be won by marches, or sit-ins or legislative action, but by judicial fiat.
Thurgood Marshall’s rejection from his hometown law school due to its policy of segregation was very likely one of the catalysts for his eventual crusade against segregation within education. He attended Howard Law University, and three years after graduation he successfully brought his first suit against the University of Maryland Law school for its policy of segregation. He worked closely with the NAACP to challenge the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine that was the legal and moral underpinning of the Jim Crow era. The Murray vs. Pearson case led to a strike down of the segregation laws in higher education in the state of Maryland, but that would be the start.
He won his first Supreme Court case at the age of 32 and over the next years would rack up an impressive series of victories culminating in the famous Brown vs. Board of education in which the Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal was unconstitutional because it could never be truly equal. Separate, was inherently unequal. In all, he won 29 out of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.
He would later go on to become the first Black Solicitor General and Supreme Court Justice, where he would compile an impressively liberal voting record, particularly when it came to the issues of the death penalty and abortion. He served for 24 years and he has received a plethora of awards and honours, all more than richly deserved. He was a true great and he had a badass moustache.
“...the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today.”