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To some of us, Thurgood Marshall is the first black man ever to become Supreme Court Justice but to most Americans, he is more than that. His name today symbolizes complete equality and freedom, not only for blacks but also for every individual regardless of his color or race. To associate Marshall with law alone and to discuss his accomplishments in this context might be unfair to a person who devoted his whole life to the creation of a moral society where every individual is accorded equal rights and where color doesn't determine or plague civil rights. Thus Marshall was the man who taught us to value freedom and equality over 'heritage' or 'history'. He must therefore be remembered as a champion of civil rights and as someone who had the courage to reject rigid interpretations of law to create a better and more humane society for every individual.
Marshall was born in 1908, at a time when racial segregation and discrimination plagued the American society and when rejection due to skin color wasn't a rare phenomenon. Marshall wasn't exactly determined to eradicate segregation when he was young because he felt comfortable with his skin color and never had a burning desire to be treated as an equal. This is a strange discovery about someone who later came to be known as Mr. Civil Rights. Juan Williams (1990) writes: "As a boy, Marshall did not have a burning desire to fight segregation. He says he rarely felt uncomfortable about race. He lived in a nine house on Druid Hill Avenue, and both of his parents worked. His mother taught kindergarten, and his father held a variety of jobs, including working as the steward at the prestigious Gibson Island Club on Chesapeake Bay. Marshall was the great-grandson of a slave named Thoroughgood -- Marshall shortened it to Thurgood -- but both his grandfathers owned large grocery stores in Baltimore."
These circumstances gave rise to an air of indifference in his life where he didn't really care about being a black or being treated unfairly. But this apathy wasn't meant to remain intact for long because in 1930 Marshall faced cruel rejection on the basis of race when he applied to University of Maryland Law School. This incident was an eye-opener and awakened Marshall to the importance of skin color in prejudiced society of United States. Undaunted by this rejection, he applied to Howard University Law School where he was readily accepted. His time at this University had a great bearing on his life and on his understanding of law. It was here that he met, Charles Hamilton Houston, who had a profound impact on him as he taught his students to interpret the Constitution correctly and fairly. The most important legal interpretation that he wanted to overturn was the doctrine of 'separate but equal' established by Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896. Marshall turned out to be the man to accomplish this task successfully several years later.
The first importance case that established his reputation as a great black lawyer came in 1933 when he sued University of Maryland Law School for not giving admission to a qualified black student, Donald Murray. In Murray v. Maryland, Marshall with Houston successfully argued against Maryland's policy to grant scholarship to black students fort studying elsewhere but not at Maryland. Levy (1998) writes, "This policy, Marshall and Houston contended, did not meet the separate but equal requirement laid down by Plessy. A federal appeals court agreed and ordered the university to admit Murray. The ruling offered a degree of vindication for Marshall, who had been denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School years earlier." (Page 85)
Marshall had a profound impact on specific areas of law especially where legal interpretations of constitution and doctrines were concerned. He believed that even when rejecting established doctrines, history and years of social conditioning might cloud our opinions and views. He firmly maintained that a law or doctrine that violates ethics or morality and accords unfair treatment to some sections of society should be altered or overturned. He was of the view that such laws were responsible for creating an immoral and unfair social fabric.
Clay Smith (2001) writes: "For Marshall, to live in…[continue]
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