Marshall breaks racial barrier as first U.S. Supreme Court black justice…on this day

Justice Thurgood Marshall
Justice Thurgood Marshall (AP Images)

A major civil rights activist and noted jurist, Justice Thurgood Marshall became the first African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and was sworn in on this day in 1967.  Throughout his long career, Marshall worked to improve social justice for African Americans.

Marshall told the American Bar Association in 1988 that “A child born to a black mother in a state like Mississippi … has exactly the same rights as a white baby born to the wealthiest person in the United States. It’s not true, but I challenge anyone to say it is not a goal worth working for.”

Lyndon Johnson at lectern, Thurgood Marshall next to him
President Johnson announces his nomination of Thurgood Marshall to become the first African-American justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. (AP Images)

Marshall was the great-grandson of a slave born in the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nominated to the high court by President Lyndon Johnson in early 1967, he served until 1991.

A graduate of Lincoln University and Howard University Law School, Marshall knew social justice and civil rights firsthand as a lawyer in the 1940s and 1950s as the civil rights movement began its long struggle for equality.  But in 1954 Marshall successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court for an end to segregated public schools in America in the landmark legal case Brown v. Board of Education.