Politics and Government

Federal Courts

What is black America’s involvement on the U.S. Supreme Court?

President Lyndon B. Johnson, in 1967, named Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993) as the first black associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. (In 1965 he had became the first black American U.S. solicitor general.) Baltimore-born Marshall graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and Howard University, and became one of the nation’s foremost civil rights lawyers. From 1938 to 1961 he served as NAACP counsel. Marshall represented the plaintiff in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case before the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1954 that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. In 1962 President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him solicitor general—the highest law enforcement position held by an African American at the time. He was the recipient of the coveted NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1946.

Only two African Americans have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. After Thurgood Marshall, in 1991 Clarence Thomas (1948–) became the second black associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. President George H. W. Bush nominated him to replace Marshall; he was sworn into office on October 18.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy African American History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App