Myth about Marshall

Cruising the Internet, I came across the following about Thurgood Marshall on the anniversary of what would have been his 99th birthday.

Marshall's application to the University of Maryland School of Law was turned down in 1930 because he was African-American. So he went to Howard University instead, graduated, and returned to Maryland where he represented another deserving young Black would-be law student -- Donald Gaines Murray -- and won.

A similar thing was mentioned in USA Today a few years ago. The Washington Post also mentioned during Black History Month earlier this year. The New York Times mentioned it in Marshall's obit.

It has been repeated in other places but it isn't true that Thurgood Marshall applied to the University of Maryland Law School. At least, not according to Juan Williams in his book Thurgood Marshall: An American Revolutionary. See the start of chapter 5. There, Williams writes: "He never even bothered to apply to the University of Maryland Law School."

Of course, it was the 1930s, so Marshall knew he would be wasting his time applying. He would be a trailblazer eventually, but not then.

In the footnote, Williams notes: "No, I never applied there," Marshall told the author Richard Kluger in 1973, Brown Collection, Yale Univ. He reiterated it during my 1989 interview.



Lola Gets said...

I was a historian at the UMD Law Library in Baltimore. Marshall didnt apply to the law school there, because he knew the states policy of segregation in all educational institutions. But the State of Maryland did have a tuition plan for African American graduate students. If an African American student applied to and was accepted at a graduate school out-of-state, the State of Maryland would pay for their tuition, since they had no "comparable", ie all-Black institution, for the African American student to attend in-state.

Interesting, huh? The State of Maryland was sooo adamantly opposed to desegregated education, they wanted to keep Blacks from higher education sooo badly, they PAID to have them go elsewhere!

Casey Lartigue said...

Hi, Lola,

Former secretary of education Roderick Paige delivered the keynote address at a conference I organized a few years ago.

Here's something he said about his own education during Jim Crow:

"I attended Jackson State, a Historically Black College, and it was a great university. But I really had no choice. I couldn't attend Ol' Miss or Mississippi Southern or Mississippi State. And like many African Americans in Mississippi I went north for my graduate studies, to Indiana University. In fact, the state paid me to leave Mississippi to further my education."

In the book The Jim Crow Guide, Stetson Kennedy outlined some of the ways that states tried to get around allowing black students into their institutions.

For example, the state of Texas tried to get around letting Herman Sweatt in by buiding a three-room law school just for him...

In 1947, after a judge ordered the state of South Carolina to allow John Wrighten into the University of South Carolina law school, the state erected a one-room law school at the state college for Negroes.

In 1947, when the state of Oklahoma was ordered by the Supreme Court to allow Ada Lois Sipuel into law school, a one-room law school was set up at the black college.