Marshalling Justice: The Story Of Thurgood Marshall Study Guide

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Prepared by Cathy Kaemmerlen

SS5H6a, SS56b,


Playwright Cathy Kaemmerlen is a professional storyteller, actress, writer, and creator of shows ever since she can remember.  For the past thirty years she has written, toured, performed, and researched over 40 shows for over 5,000 audiences of all ages.  Her focus over the past ten years has been on historical one-person shows.  MARSHALLING JUSTICE is her third show written for another performer.  She tours through Tattlingtales Productions, Teaching Museums of FultonCounty, and the Georgia and SC Touring Arts Rosters as an independent contractor.  She is the author of 4 books.
John Doyle is an actor, storyteller and teaching artist. Some of John’s favorite productions include: Home, Fly, Darker Face of the Earth, A Conversation between Malcolm X and Barack Obama, What Eyes Can See and many others. As a teaching artist, John has worked with Alliance Theater, Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre, Horizon Theater, Georgia Ensemble Theater, Georgia State University, Camp Broadway at the Fox Theater, Young Audiences, Atlanta Street Theater and Upward Bound

This is a one-man show on the life and contributions of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice, who is well known for winning the Supreme Court case, Brown v Topeka Board of Education that tested equal but separate schools.  Since the 1880’s, America had been operating under a policy of segregation, keeping the black and white races separate.  This policy contributed to two separate, claiming to be equal, school systems for the separation of black and white school children.  By proving that separate but equal school systems are unconstitutional, via the 5th and 14th amendments, Thurgood opened the doors for desegregation and civil rights rulings in the United States.  He was known as “Mr. Civil Rights” and working within the framework of law, fought to confront discrimination wherever he found it.


  • To learn about the contributions of Thurgood Marshall to the Civil Rights Movement in America, earning him the nickname “Mr. Civil Rights.”
  • To learn about the Supreme Court case:  Brown v the Topeka Board of Education that ruled separate but equal schools in the US as being unconstitutional
  • To learn about Thurgood’s rise to becoming the first African American Supreme Court Justice
  • To learn how to work within the laws or how to make changes in the law, becoming a watchdog for civil rights as Thurgood was



Today students we will be watching a show based on Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice, who was known as “Mr. Civil Rights.” An actor will be portraying Chief Justice Marshall and will tell you about his early life as well as his career as a lawyer and judge.  His mission was to confront discrimination, the unfair treatment of one person or another, and to make sure the laws of our Constitution were fairly enforced.  He lived during a time when there was segregation of the races.  There were black schools and white schools.  There were black water fountains and white water fountains.  There were places for blacks to sit on the buses and for whites.  The schools had a separate but equal policy.  But Thurgood saw that the black schools and students did not have equal schools or equal educational opportunities.  He took this unfairness all the way to the Supreme Court in a case called Brown v Topeka Board of Education.  We are going to reenact that case today in this show.  Some of our fellow students and teachers will be playing parts in the show.  Please remember they are actors, playing parts, and give them the respect they deserve. If he asks for volunteers, simply raise your hand.  Be good audience members. Laugh at appropriate times. Leave your comments to yourself and save your questions for the end of the show.  Watch and learn about this inspirational man and enjoy.

.What do you know about Thurgood Marshall?
.Why do you think we study him in the third grade?
.Did what he accomplish make a difference for us all?  In what ways?
.What can we learn from his example?
Discuss why you think Thurgood Marshall deserved the title “Mr. Civil Rights.”
. Do you think it’s possible to have separate but equal schools?
.How would you feel if you lived in the era of segregation?
.Do you think there is still a need for civil rights watch dogs like Thurgood Marshall?
.Thurgood Marshall believed in making changes through the law.  What does this mean to you?

Due process: 
a fundamental constitutional guarantee that all legal proceedings will be fair and that one will be given notice of the proceedings and an opportunity to be heard before the government acts to take away one’s life, liberty, or property. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of the law.
Jim Crow laws: named after a black character in minstrel shows. These laws from the 1880’s into the 1960’s enforced segregation
Brown v Topeka Board of Education: 1954 Supreme Court case that actually combined four separate segregation issues testing Plessy v Ferguson ruling.  Oliver Brown was the father of 8 year old Linda Brown who tried to enroll at Sumner Elementary, an all white school in Topeka, KS but was not allowed to enter.  She was forced to enroll in the all black inferior elementary school five miles from her home.  Chief Justice Earl Warren and the Supreme Court voted unanimously to abolish separate but equal schools in the United States.  Thurgood Marshall was the chief lawyer for Oliver Brown and won this monumental case, forever changing the face of public education for African American children.
Plessy v Ferguson: a landmark Supreme Court decision of 1896 upholding the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in public facilities under the doctrine of separate but equal.
Segregation:  the separation of the races
Separate but equal: until the 1960’s, separate free schools were established for the education of children of African decent.  It was unlawful for blacks to attend white schools and whites to attend black schools.|
The Little Rock Nine:  Nine black students in 1957 attempted to integrate Central High School in Little Rock as a result of Brown v Topeka Board of Education.  President Eisenhower had to send in federal troops to protect them.
Debate:  To engage in argument by discussing opposing points.
NAACP:  The National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization whose members continue to fight for social justice for all Americans.
Stereotype:  a fixed belief about a particular group or class of people.
Discrimination:  the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category.
Judicial Court of Appeals:  the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ha nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals in specialized cases.|
US Solicitor General:  the person appointed to represent the federal government of the United States before the Supreme Court.
Abridge:  to reduce or lessen in duration scope, authority, etc.; diminish; curtail.

“My weapon is the law.”

“Equal means getting the same thing at the same time and in the same place…There can be no separate but equal schools.  Separate schools can not be equal.”

“Laws not only provide concrete benefits.  Laws can change the hearts of men.”

“Well, when I got off the train and saw and felt that all that racial hostility, I reached for my civil rights, I folded them up very carefully, put them down deep in my back pocket and kept them there until I finished my business, got back on that train heading north.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury…nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges of citizens of the United States, nor shall nay state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Poetry by Langston Hughes:
“I Dream a World”
I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!
Chief Justice Earl Warren’s Ruling on Brown v Topeka Board of Education:
That in the field of public education the doctrine of separate but equal has no place.  We rule separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.  We also find that segregation violates both the 14th and 5th amendments.  And finally we expect school districts across America to end segregation and WITH ALL DELIBERATE SPEED.

A Picture Book of Thurgood Marshall
 by David Adler, Holiday House, c 1997.
Thurgood, an HBO special starring Lawrence Fishburne, based on the play by George Stevens, Jr.
A Rookie Bio:  Thurgood Marshall:  First African American Supreme Court Justice by Carol Greene, Children’s Press, Chicago, c 1991.
A&E Biography:  Thurgood Marshall,
Hand in Hand:  Ten Black Men who Changed America by Andrea and Brian Pinkney.  Disney Jump at the Sun Books, c 2012.
Thurgood Marshall:  American Revolutionary by Juan Williams, BroadwayBooks, c 1998.
Indiana Supreme Court’s “Courts in the Classroom” project.
The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall by Michael G. Long, Amistad Pub., c 2011.
The Other Side
by Jacqueline Woodson, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, c2001.

.Long table
.16 chairs
.Laptop computer, projector, screen
.student actors to play the following parts and sit in specified chairs
1. Baliff (speaking part)|
2.  Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black (non Speaking)
3. Nine students to play the Little Rock Nine (non speaking) 6 GIRLS, 3 BOYS
.teachers to play the following parts and sit in specified chairs
1. John W Davis, lawyer
2.Chief Justice Warren
3.President Johnson