Thurgood Marshall for Kids

Instructor: Anna Reinking

Anni taught elementary school for eight years and is currently teaching college. She received her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction.

In this lesson, we'll discuss Thurgood Marshall, who was the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. We'll explore his life and accomplishments, especially those related to civil rights.

Thurgood Marshall

Thoroughgood Marshall, an African-American, was born in Baltimore, MD, on July 2, 1908. While in the second grade, he changed the spelling of his name to Thurgood because he was tired of writing such a long name.

Thurgood Marshall
thurgood marshall

Before Thurgood was born, his grandfather was a slave that escaped to gain his freedom during the Civil War. The Civil War was a war focused on slavery and states' rights that was fought between the Northern and Southern states.

Thurgood Marshall's parents were William and Norma; both worked hard throughout their entire lives. William worked at an all-white country club; his mother taught kindergarten. Thurgood Marshall married first his wife, Vivien Burey, in 1929; however, she died in 1955. He married his second wife, Cecilia Suyat, at the end of that same year. Cecilia and Thurgood had two sons: Thurgood Marshall, Jr., a former aide to President Bill Clinton, and John W. Marshall, a former United States Marshals Service Director and Virginia Secretary of Public Safety.


While attending high school, Thurgood Marshall was a good student, but he also liked to question and debate, which led him to his career in law. He attended Howard University's Law School because his first choice, the University of Maryland, would not allow him to attend due to his skin color. This experience had an impact on his law career, which focused on issues of segregation, or the forced separation of races.

Thurgood worked hard as a student and graduated first in his class from Howard University Law School in 1933. After passing the bar exam or the exam needed to be a lawyer in the state of Maryland, he opened his own law practice. As a new lawyer, Thurgood had trouble finding any major cases or clients. After just a year, he went to work for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Famous Cases

One of Thurgood Marshall's first cases for the NAACP involved another student who was denied access to the University of Maryland because of his skin color. Marshall took the University of Maryland to court and won. He then began fighting the Jim Crow laws of the South, or those laws that separated blacks from whites in public places, schools, and in communities. Eventually he was known as Mr. Civil Rights.

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