African Americans on Postage Stamps

Thurgood Marshall

Civil Rights Lawyer

37-cent Thurgood Marshall stamp
The Thurgood Marshall stamp was issued January 7, 2003.

"If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds."
—Stanley v. Georgia (1969) Majority Opinion by Marshall.

Famed civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall was one of the best known lawyers in the history of civil rights in America. He became the first director-counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. In 1954, Marshall and his legal team prevailed in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, that struck down segregation in public schools. President Kennedy appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1961. In 1965 President Johnson appointed him the first African-American solicitor general of the United States. Marshall made history again in 1967, when he was sworn in as the first African-American justice of the Supreme Court. His 24-year tenure was marked by his commitment to defending constitutional rights and affirmative action and by his strong opposition to the death penalty. Thurgood Marshall died on January 24, 1993, at the age of 85. On November 30, 1993, he was awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom-our country’s highest civilian honor.

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The Desegregating Public Schools stamp was issued May 26, 1999.

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” Segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race deprives children of minority groups equal educational opportunities, even when physical facilities and other tangible factors may be equal. Such practices violate the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The decision effectively denied the legal basis for segregation in Kansas and 20 other states with segregated classrooms and would forever change race relations in the United States.

The Black Experience

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