After graduating from Lincoln University, a historically black college and university (HBCU), Thurgood Marshall couldn’t return to his hometown of Baltimore for legal training because the University of Maryland Law School refused to admit blacks. He had no choice but to attend another HBCU: the Howard University School of Law. To pay tuition there, his mother pawned her engagement and wedding rings.
Two years after graduation from law school, Marshall successfully sued the University of Maryland, ending its policy of segregation and forcing admission of its first black student. He would go on to argue many civil rights cases before the Supreme Court on important issues such as integrated schools, voting rights, and police interrogation practices, eventually becoming the first black Supreme Court Justice.
This story is only possible because of two related facts. First, HBCUs have the distinct mission of training black professionals and have done exactly that for over 150 years. And second, black lawyers bring a unique perspective to civil rights issues; thus, their efforts have reshaped American society.