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The Other Marshall Plan

By: Déjà Daniel Second Period 12/13/13

The Other Marshall Plan Thurgood Marshall was one of, arguably the most important; United States civil rights revolutionaries of the 20th century that forever reshaped the fabric of American society. While he is most known for being the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Marshall’s greatest accomplishment came as a lawyer when he successfully argued for the desegregation of public schools in Brown vs. Board of Education. As a Civil Rights Lawyer, Marshall directly ended legal separation of black and white children in public schools. The effect of the success of the Brown case led to the 1960s civil rights movement, led to the increased number of African Americans attending high school/ graduating from college and led to the expanding of the African American middle-class in both size and politics after the 1960s. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Marshall to the Supreme Court saying it was "the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place." Marshall would go on to serve twenty-four years on the Supreme Court. As the first African-American Supreme Court justice he championed affirmative action, preferences, set-asides and other race conscious policies to help America right some of the racial wrongs created by slavery. Although his work is mostly viewed as being on behalf of African Americans, in actuality he built a structure of individual rights that became the foundation of protections for all Americans. Justice Marshall was successful in creating new protections legally for women, children, prisoners and the homeless. This group’s claim to legal empowerment over the last century is

directly recognized as Marshall’s accomplishment. Furthermore, the American press has Marshall to thank for providing them greater liberties. Thurgood Marshall’s civil rights career was not by acciden t. The grandson of a slave, born in 1908, Marshall's belief in the power of racial integration came from his middle class black upbringing in Baltimore, Maryland. His perception on race relations was shaped from an activist black community that had already established its schools and fought for equal rights since the Civil War. His family, of an interracial background, had been demanding equal treatment for blacks in the city of Baltimore. His father, William Marshall, gave Thurgood an appreciation for the United States Constitution and the rule of law. Upon graduating high school in 1925, Thurgood followed his older brother, William Aubrey Marshall, to the historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. After graduating with honors in 1930 he applied to the University of Maryland Law School, but he was denied because of his race. Given this setback, he registered to another historically black university for post-graduate studies at Howard University’s Law School in Washington, D.C. There he met Charles Hamilton Houston [a prominent African-American lawyer, Dean of Howard University Law School and NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Litigation Director who played a significant role in dismantling the Jim Crow laws] who inspired Thurgood to apply the tenants of the U.S. Constitution to all Americans regardless of race. As a result, Marshall began practicing law in Baltimore after he graduated in 1933.

Thurgood Marshall’s legal career was impressive even before his Supreme Court appointment. Marshall's first major court case, interesting enough, came the same year he graduated against the same University that denied him admittance when in 1933 he won a law suit against the University of Maryland to admit an Amherst University African American graduate named Donald Gaines Murray. Enthusiastic about Marshall's victory, author H.L. Mencken wrote that the decision of denial by the University of Maryland Law School was "brutal and absurd," and they should not object to the "presence among them of a self-respecting and ambitious young Afro-American well prepared for his studies by four years of hard work in a class A college." Eventually Marshall followed his mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston to New York and would in time become Chief Counsel for the NAACP. At the age of 32 Marshall won his first U.S. Supreme Court case. His legal success as a lawyer for the NAACP included breaking the color line in housing, transportation and voting. He won 29 out of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court. It was in this time that Marshall was asked by the United Nations (UN) and the United Kingdom (UK) for assistance to draft the constitutions of the emerging African countries of Ghana and present day Tanzania. The UN and UK believed that Marshall, who so successfully fought for the rights of the US’ oppressed minority, would be perfect to ensure the rights of White citizens in these two former European colonies. While building an impressive record of Supreme Court challenges to state-sponsored discrimination, including the Brown vs. Board decision, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the United States

Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1961. In this position, Marshall wrote over 150 decisions including support for the rights of immigrants, limiting government intrusion in cases involving illegal search & seizure, double jeopardy and right to privacy issues. None of Marshall's 98 majority decisions were reversed by the Supreme Court. Ultimately, Marshall remained on that court until 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to be the United States Solicitor General. Additionally, Marshall was the first African American to hold this office. As Solicitor General, he won 14 out of the 19 cases that he argued in favor for the government prior to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Focusing directly on Marshall’s historic impact on segregation that came before much of his federal career, separate but equal was and had been the law of land throughout America’s history. This meant that the Constitution made it legal for blacks to be treated separately. African Americans had turned to the courts for help to protect their constitutional rights, but the courts always ruled in favor of the states to segregate people of color. In the landmark case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racially separate facilities, if equal, did not violate the Constitution. Segregation, the Court said, was not discrimination. Marshall’s mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston, had instilled in Marshall during his college years that Plessy vs. Ferguson needed to be overturned. Not only was separate but equal morally wrong, but it also was a system designed to hold African Americans back to an inferior existence. This law allowed for the legal segregation of black and white schools. Naturally the quality of education was lesser for the African Americans due to fewer resources

given from the state level as opposed to the schools that allowed only whites. Although slavery had long been abolished, separate but equal was a legal way to still enforce the ideals of slavery. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court heard Marshall’s final arguments in the history-altering desegregation case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Marshall presented the case that school segregation was a violation of individual rights under the 14th Amendment. Marshall also asserted that the only justification for continuing to have separate schools was to keep people who were slaves "as near that stage as possible." On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren, delivered the unanimous ruling: "We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." This decision’s

importance is that it dismantled the legal framework for racial segregation in public schools and Jim Crow laws which limited the rights of African Americans. The decision forced the desegregation of public schools in 21 states. Monroe Elementary School and Sumner Elementary School are two of the schools in Topeka, Kansas and elsewhere in the country that were of importance in the Supreme Court’s decision. Elementary schools in Kansas had been segregated since 1879 by a state law. Black parents in Kansas had been filing court challenges as early as 1881. By the mid 20 th century, 11 court challenges to segregated schools had reached the Kansas State Supreme Court; however, not one of the cases successfully overturned the state law. Although in 1950 the Topeka NAACP organized another case including 13 families. The case was a

complaint that their children were forced to ride school buses or city buses to reach segregated schools far from their home. The Topeka NAACP filed this case in February of 1951. Due to adverse rulings, this case had been appealed to the US Supreme Court where it had been combined with other, similar cases from across the county under the heading of Oliver L. Brown et. al. vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, (KS) et. al. Brown was the assigned lead plaintiff in the Kansas case and became the lead name for the court case. Marshall was the special council who argued before the Court that segregation was

unconstitutional. Thurgood Marshall’s win in Brown vs. Board of Education was one, if not the most important rulings in the 20th century. Marshall erased the legacy of slavery getting rid of the racist segregation system of Jim Crow. Marshall knew that integration would allow for equal rights under the law. Once individual rights were accepted, in Marshall's mind, then people of any color, both black and white could rise or fall based on their own ability. While he will forever be remembered as the first African American United States Supreme Court Justice, it is also important not to forget that his most noteworthy accomplishment came, not as a judge but as a lawyer, when he won the case to desegregate public schools in Brown vs. Board of Education.