- History & Culture
How Thurgood Marshall became the first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice
As a civil rights attorney, he won a landmark case to end segregation in public schools—then fought to uphold those gains through dissent on a changing Court.
Decades before Thurgood Marshall was sworn into the U.S. Supreme Court on October 2, 1967, the man who would become its first Black justice had already transformed American law. Known as “Mr. Civil Rights,” Marshall was one of the architects of the civil rights movement—a passionately progressive attorney who helped end school segregation.
During his barrier-breaking years on the Supreme Court, Marshall continued to advocate for civil and human rights. Yet Marshall’s tenure is perhaps best remembered for his stirring dissent against his increasingly conservative colleagues’ dismantling from the mid-1970s through the 1980s of the equal-protection laws he had championed.
Born in Baltimore in 1908, Marshall was the son of a teacher and a railroad porter. His parents had named him Thoroughgood