BNHA Thurgood Marshall's Childhood Home
Gaining Freedom for All: African American Heritage and the Struggle for Equality
Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail
Points of Interest
1632 Division St
Baltimore, Maryland 21217
Thurgood Marshall, the nation’s first African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, was born in 1908 and grew up in Old West Baltimore, attended segregated public schools, and during his teenage years worked in a Pennsylvania Avenue hat shop. As a young boy, Marshall’s family lived in the rowhouse at 1632 Division Street.
In 1930, Marshall was denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School (UMLS) because of his race. He commuted to Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., where Charles Hamilton Houston, Marshall’s mentor and law school professor, instilled in him the desire to apply the tenants of the U.S. Constitution to all Americans. Marshall began practicing law in Baltimore after his 1933 graduation from Howard. Two years later, he took UMLS to court on behalf of Donald Murray and won the case, forcing the university to admit Murray, its first black student since the 1890s.
Marshall joined the legal staff of the NAACP in 1938 where he continued to work with Houston. As counsel for the NAACP, Marshall won 29 out of 32 U.S. Supreme Court cases from 1938 to 1961, becoming the country’s “greatest civil rights lawyer and constitutional lawyer of the twentieth century.”
Thurgood Marshall most pivotal case was the landmark 1954 civil rights case Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. Marshall and a team of lawyers and sociologists argued that “separate” educational facilities for black and white children could never be “equal.” The court unanimously ruled that separate schools for black and white children were unconstitutional. Thurgood Marshall led the fight to dismantle the “separate but equal” doctrine in public education and won.
President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1961. Four years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson named him Solicitor-General of the United States. In 1967, he became the first African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice, serving from 1967 to 1991. Marshall died in 1993.