On October 2, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first African-American justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Marshall was the grandson of an enslaved man, and could not attend public law school in his native state of Maryland due to the school’s segregationist policy. He instead attended Howard University, and three years after his graduation, his legal arguments forced the University of Maryland to end its segregation.

Marshall argued many cases in front of the Supreme Court before joining it, winning 29 out of 32. His most famous case is probably his successful prosecution in Brown v. Board of Education, which eventually forced public schools across the U.S. to desegregate.

As a justice, Marshall participated in many important decisions regarding civil rights and the role of the United States Constitution, and was a staunch opponent of the death penalty.


system of ideas and general laws that guide a nation, state, or other organization.

death penalty

punishment by execution. Also called capital punishment.


to end segregation by race.

enslaved person

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.

public education

schools funded by the government and the standards to which those schools are held.

Supreme Court

highest judicial authority on issues of national or constitutional importance in the U.S.

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