Thurgood Marshall biography for kids

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Thurgood by Jonah Winter {Thurgood Marshall}

by | Oct 8, 2022 | Biographies | 1 comment

Thurgood Marshall – From Arguing Before the Supreme Court to Sitting on it

Short version of this review: we loved Thurgood by Jonah Winter and Bryan Collier. Another influential American whose story I never learned much of until I was an adult, Thurgood graduated from Howard University and then represented a law suit against a law school that had refused to admit him because of his skin color – and won. He continued to use his platform to destroy racial discrimination, all the way up to his landmark case: Brown vs Board of Education, where the Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated schools were in violation of the 14th Amendment. 

After this victory, all racially segregated schools had to integrate. 

Thurgood Marshall went on to break racial boundaries and, in 1967, became the first Black man to become a Supreme Court Justice. He served on the Supreme Court from 1967-1991, and passed away in 1993. 


We read this book during Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Senate confirmation, which was riddled with so much ridiculous racism and harassment. Out of curiosity, I looked at the reports from Justice Marshall’s confirmation hearings and (not surprisingly, but sadly) found the same patterns. 

I used this book and the current events to talk with the boys about how racism still hasn’t gone away, and how it has infiltrated thought patterns in our society so that people just *assume* things are correct and get rude when corrected. 

The other theme was how much one person can make a difference. Thanks to Thurgood Marshall, American schools all became integrated, and the Supreme Court became integrated. He was the first, but following him have been the first female Justice (Sandra Day O’Connor), the first Hispanic Justice (Sonia Sotomayor), and now the first Black female Justice (Ketanji Brown Jackson). He broke the barriers that made it possible for the Supreme Court to better represent all of America.   


 I already stated above that this book brought about some great conversations about racism and how deeply rooted in our culture and psyche it can be. It led to more conversations about recognizing the dignity in every person, and why we don’t assume to know things are true about people. 

We also talked about how exciting it was for the Supreme Court to have more diverse representation. If you remember, when we read I Am An American, the story of Wong Kim Ark, my oldest recognized that the Supreme Court who heard his case were “all old white men, Mom!” It was thrilling to show him a picture of Justice Marshall, the current Supreme Court, and just-confirmed Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, and show him the progress we have made towards being a representation of the people of America.  


Age Level

It’s written for early elementary age, but my preschooler enjoyed this book as well. 


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