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Justice Thurgood Marshall

Long before he argued Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the landmark case that outlawed the policy of “separate but equal,” Thurgood Marshall used the courts to systematically challenge segregation. He successfully sued the University of Maryland School of Law in 1933 for refusing to accept Donald Gaines Murray, an African-American Amherst graduate with flawless credentials. He later became the Chief Counsel for the NAACP and argued an impressive 32 cases before the Supreme Court, winning 29 of them.

Marshall believed that integration was the only remedy for the damaging effects of racism, and the cases he argued integrated one institution after another. After he integrated the University of Maryland Law School, he integrated political primary elections in Smith v. Allwright (1944), successfully argued that racially-based restrictive covenants were legally unenforceable in Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), desegregated graduate schools nationally (1950), and integrated the nation’s public schools in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). He also ended segregation on buses and ended the Montgomery Bus Boycott by winning Browder v. Gayle. During this period, he was also asked by the United Nations and the United Kingdom to help draft the constitutions of the emerging nations of Ghana and Tanzania.

His record of advocacy and success led President Kennedy to appoint him to the US Court of Appeals and President Johnson to appoint him to the office of US Solicitor General. In 1967, President Johnson appointed him to the US Supreme Court, where he amassed a record of strong support for the Constitutional protection of individual rights.

Thurgood Marshall is a fitting namesake for a charter school dedicated to bringing resources to underserved students since the battle for educational equality was a hallmark of his career as a lawyer, public servant, and Supreme Court Justice.