Broadway Features and Reviews
Thurgood Marshall On Broadway
By Daniel Luzer, Broadway Magazine
Thurgood Marshall, the subject of the new one-person Broadway show starring Laurence Fishburne, was the first black man to do many things. However, he is primarily remembered for being the first black U.S. Supreme Court justice. Remembering him for the Supreme Court understates his importance in American history.
Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1908, the great-grandson of slaves. His original name was Thoroughgood, named after an ancestor, but he shortened it to "Thurgood" as a child.
After he graduated from high school in 1925, he went to college at the historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. After college he wished to attend law school at University of Maryland, in his hometown of Baltimore. Denied admission because of his race, Marshall went to law school instead at Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1933 Marshall graduated magna cum laude and returned to Baltimore to practice law.
His first clients were often working-class people with legal problems involving bankruptcy, police brutality and evictions. He gained a reputation as the "little man's lawyer." In 1934, Marshall became special counsel for the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Marshall was involved with many crucial civil rights cases of the twentieth century. As the NAACP's chief counsel, Marshall argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court in 1954. Marshall was also involved with Garner v. Louisiana, the case in which civil rights activists were charged with disturbing the peace for sitting at a white-only lunch counter.
In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall U.S. Solicitor General. As Solicitor General, the person appointed argues for the Government of the United States in front of the Supreme Court, Marshall won 14 of the 19 cases he argued.
On June 13, 1967, President Johnson appointed Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court. Marshall was the first African-American to sit on America's highest court. Over the next 24 years Marshall's record on the court reflected his strong support for civil rights and protection of accused criminals.
Marshall retired from the Supreme Court in 1991. President George H.W. Bush controversially filled the vacant position with Clarence Thomas. Thurgood Marshall died of heart failure on January 24, 1993.
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