Thurgood Marshall Lesson for Kids: Facts & Biography

Instructor: Claire DeSaussure

Claire has worked in behavioral programs at the Elementary Level and has an MLS with a focus on Creative Writing.

Thurgood Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court justice. Marshall was the grandson of a slave and spent his career fighting for equal rights for all people.

Segregation

If you're like me, you probably have friends who come in different styles - tall, short, dark-skinned, light-skinned, straight hair, curly hair. We don't decide what makes a good friend based on their appearance, we like them because we enjoy the same things, and they laugh at our jokes. But, up until 1964 in America, people were treated differently just because their skin was a different color. African American children were not allowed to attend the same schools as white children. This separating of people based on their skin color was known as segregation.

Thurgood Marshall was an African American man, and he knew that no one should be treated differently because of their skin color. Marshall changed the world by fighting for equal rights for people that weren't being treated fairly.

Early Years

Thurgood Marshall was born in Maryland on July 2nd, 1908. He was a good student and went to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. He wanted to go to the University of Maryland Law School next, but the college would not let him because he was black. This changed Marshall's life forever, and he wanted to fight against these social injustices. Marshall went to Howard University Law School and graduated first in his class.

A Young Thurgood Marshall
Young Thurgood Marshall

Brown v. Board of Education

Thurgood Marshall was an excellent lawyer. He began working for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the early 1930s, where he fought cases to gain equal rights for African Americans.

A man called Oliver Brown wanted his daughter, Linda, to attend the local school that was a few blocks from their home in Topeka, Kansas. Because she was black, the government said that she would have to go to a school farther away. Brown asked the NAACP for help, and Thurgood Marshall took the case. Marshall won, and Linda and other black children were allowed to attend the local school.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. This means that the nine men and women who are justices make the final decision about things that people cannot agree on. You can think about it this way - if you asked the recess attendant a question and she said no, and you thought you were being treated unfairly, you might ask your teacher. If your teacher said no, you might appeal to the principal for a different answer. Once the principal makes her decision, she can tell the other people what to do.

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