7/7/07

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.

CJL