Born July 2, 1908 to an interracial family, and as the grandson of a slave, Thurgood Marshall was destined to face the hardships of being a black American. He was able to overcome the difficulties of growing up in his time and became one of the most influential figures in the history of civil rights, yet he is often overlooked in the most popular accounts of the movement.
His childhood in Baltimore, Maryland was surrounded by the community's outcry for equality. They had fought for equal rights since the civil war and worked hard to establish their own schools so they could teach their children their own values. His father, William Marshall had instilled in him from an early age a great appreciation for the constitution and the rule of law.
Marshall graduated with honors from the historically black Lincoln University in 1930 then applied to the University of Maryland Law School but was denied acceptance because he was black. That same year he was accepted to Howard University Law School where he graduated as valedictorian in 1933.
Shortly after graduating, Marshall won his first major case when he sued the University of Maryland for not accepting a black Amherst University graduate who clearly qualified for admission. In 1934 Marshall started working for the Baltimore branch of the NAACP and won 29 of the 32 major cases he fought. In 1954 Marshall won the crucial case of Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka ending the separation of black and white students in public schools. This victory spurred the civil rights movement of the 1960's and increased the number of black high school and college graduates.
President Kennedy appointed Marshall to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1961 and he became circuit judge. All 112 rulings he made were ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court. Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall US Solicitor General in 1965 and he won 14 of the 19 cases he argued for the government.