BNHA Public School No. 103 (Thurgood Marshall's Elementary School)


Baltimore City Landmark

Interpretive Framework

Gaining Freedom for All: African American Heritage and the Struggle for Equality

Star Attractions

Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail

Resource Type

Points of Interest

1315 Division St

Baltimore, Maryland 21217

Built in 1877, the Henry Highland Garnet School (PS No. 103) was the elementary school attended by Thurgood Marshall from 1914-1920—his first six years of segregated public school education. Marshall, the first African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, was born in Baltimore in 1908. He grew up in the Old West Baltimore community and formed his enduring moral and legal viewpoints. It was in the segregated schools of Baltimore that Marshall memorized the U.S. Constitution and first learned and understood the principles of equal protection under the law. Marshall won his first civil rights victories in Baltimore.

The school was named in honor of Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882), a famous African American abolitionist and orator. Garnet was born a slave in Kent County, Maryland. Early in his life Garnet and his family escaped to freedom on the Underground Railroad. He became a Presbyterian minister and well-known abolitionist speaker. He used his moral persuasion to urge blacks to take political action and urged blacks to “claim their own destinies.” Garnet supported the emigration of blacks to Mexico, Liberia, and the West Indies and founded the African Civilization Society. He was also the first African American to deliver a sermon to the U.S. House of Representatives. After the Civil War, he was appointed U.S. Minister to Liberia, where he died in 1882.

Public School No. 103 operated as a school until the early 1970s. The building served as offices for local community groups until the early 1990s. The Baltimore National Heritage Area is working with municipal agencies and community leaders to preserve and protect the building and use it to interpret the life and legacy of Thurgood Marshall. For more information on the school and the preservation project, visit this website’s page dedicated to the Public School No. 103.