Thurgood Marshall was the first African American to serve as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. He joined the Court in 1967, the year this photo was taken.
Photograph by Yoichi R. Okamoto, courtesy of the National Archives
On October 2, 1967, Thurgood Marshall took the judicial oath of the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first Black person to serve on the Court. Marshall's paternal grandfather had been enslaved, and systemic racism remained widespread when Marshall was born. A segregationist admissions policy kept him from attending law school at the University of Maryland, near where he grew up. He instead attended Howard University, and soon after graduating, he filed a lawsuit that fored the integration of the University of Maryland.
As a civil rights lawyer and later U.S. solicitor general, Marshall argued dozens of cases in front of the Supreme Court, winning a majority of them. His arguments in the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education led the court to strike down the "separate but equal" doctrine, requiring public schools across the U.S. to desegregate.
In his 24-year tenure on the high court, Marshall promoted First Amendment rights, defended affirmative action programs, and vigorously opposed the death penalty.
system of ideas and general laws that guide a nation, state, or other organization.
punishment by execution. Also called capital punishment.
to end segregation by race.
person who is owned by another person or group of people.
allowed by law.
rival, or an individual or group who takes the opposite side in a confrontation.
schools funded by the government and the standards to which those schools are held.
highest judicial authority on issues of national or constitutional importance in the U.S.