Black History Month: Learning about Thurgood Marshall

Congratulations to Rebecca, Natalie and Michele for winning the Baker's Passports Little Bites!

February is Black History Month! Carter G. Woodson, an American historian, started Black History Week in 1926. He chose a week in February to honor the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. To me Black History Month really starts with Martin Luther King, Jr,'s birthday. Multicultural Kid Blogs is hosting a blog hop which I am participating in, and I wrote the introduction post for the MKB blog. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To celebrate this, the theme of Black History Month this year is Civil Rights in America. (Source) However MKB has decided to extend this to Worldwide Civil Rights. Throughout February I will look at different people, events and more of the Civil Rights Movement and some ways I am introducing it to Hazel. Today we are going to look at Thurgood Marshall.

NAACP leaders with poster NYWTS
NAACP Leaders (Source: By New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer:
Al Ravenna [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Now I knew Thurgood Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court Justice, but I did not know his role in the Civil Rights Movement. I happened to take a book out of the library on Thurgood Marshall and read it to Hazel. The book, A Picture Book of Thurgood Marshall, by David A. Adler is a wonderful book to introduce younger children to Thurgood. Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was named after his grandfather, Thoroughgood Marshall. His grandfather was a freed slave who served in the Union army during the Civil War. Thurgood shortened his name in the second grade because he did not like writing the long name, Thoroughgood. As a child, Thurgood was a trouble maker. He often was punished in school. The principal punished him by sending him to the basement of the school with a copy of the United States Constitution. He was not allowed to come back to class without having a portion of it memorized. Before he graduated, Thurgood said he made it through every paragraph.

His father, William, worked as a waiter. He enjoyed reading about trials and went to watch them in the visitors gallery whenever he could. William Marshall was the first African American to serve on a Baltimore grand jury. William taught his sons to debate and to prove whatever they said. He also taught his sons to be proud of themselves and their race. Thurgood's mother, Norma, was an elementary school teacher. She believed in hard work and a good education. She sold her wedding and engagement rings to help pay for Thurgood's law school expenses.

In 1925 Thurgood went to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. He joined some African American friends who did silent protests against segregation while in college. He also met Vivian Burey who was a student at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1929 Thurgood and Vivian married. In 1930 Thurgood graduated from Lincoln University with honors. He wanted to go to law school and in particular he wanted to go law school at the University of Maryland. The University of Maryland was an all white school and did not admit him. He went to law school at Howard University in Washington D.C.

At law school, Thurgood discovered that law was what he always wanted to do with his life and devoted himself to his studies. One teacher he had was Charles Hamilton Houston. Houston worked at the NAACP and was the first African American to win a case before the United States Supreme Court. He taught Thurgood and all his students to use the law to fight segregation and discrimination. Thurgood graduated law school in 1933 and opened a law office in Baltimore. Then he began working for Houston and the NAACP.

Thurgood Marshall 1957-09-17
Source: Thomas J. O'Halloran, U.S. News & World Report Magazine
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In 1935, Thurgood Marshall one his first case against segregation. He and Houston argued for the right of Donald Murray to be admitted to University of Maryland Law School. They won the case and Donald Murray became the first African American to be admitted to the law school that Thurgood Marshall had once been denied access. In 1938 Thurgood Marshall became chief lawyer for the NAACP. In 1940 he argued and won his first case before the United States Supreme Court. He won twenty-nine of the thirty-two cases he tried before the Supreme Court. His most famous victory was in Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. This was the court case decision the made all the schools desegregated.

In 1954 Thurgood Marshall stopped working to stay home to care for his sick wife, Vivian. She had cancer and died in February 1955. Later that year Thurgood Marshall met Cecilia Suyat. They married and had two sons.

Source: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Thurgood Marshall continued to fight segregation and became known as Mr. Civil Rights. In 1961 President Kennedy nominated Thurgood Marshall to be a judge on the United States Court of Appeals. It took almost a year for the Senate to approve his nomination. Four years later President Johnson appointed him United States Solicitor General, the government's top lawyer. His nomination was approved in just one day. Then on June 13, 1967, President Johnson nominated him to be a justice on the Supreme Court. He became the first African American Supreme Court judge. He remained a Supreme Court judge for twenty-four years. He retired in 1991 because of poor health. Justice Thurgood Marshall died on January 24, 1993. He was eighty-four years-old. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Source: By Okamoto, Yoichi R. (Yoichi Robert) Photographer
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 Sources: Wikipedia and A Picture Book of Thurgood Marshall by David A. Alder

 Some other books to check out (some I have looked at and some I have not):

 Civil Rights Movement Books that have Thurgood Marshall in them:

Justice Thurgood Marshall played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement in America. Some say his victory in Brown versus the Board of Education Topeka, was what many African Americans needed to truly start fighting for equal rights. He is just one of many who played significant roles in fighting for equality. I hope you will join us as we explore others as well and check out all the great posts shared here to learn more about Civil Rights Movements worldwide. 

We have not done any activities or lessons, however here are some around the web you can try:

Multicultural Kid Blogs is sponsoring a blog hop in honor of Black History Month. Please visit the participating blogs below to learn a bit more about the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement worldwide. Join the discussion in our Google+ community, and follow our Black History board on Pinterest! You can also share your own posts about Black History below. 
Participating Blogs