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Today, President Obama and Michelle Obama will honor the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that in some ways shaped their own lives and education: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
The First Lady, for whom the ruling banning segregation in public schools had a personal impact, will travel to Topeka, while the president will meet privately with the families and lead lawyers who worked on the case. One person whose absence will be keenly felt at the White House is former Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, who passed away in 1993.
For Marshall, then the NAACP Special Counsel, the Brown victory was the culmination of a long and personal legal campaign. But, as NBC archives footage from the Court’s decision day shows, Marshall always felt that more could be done to push the Civil Rights Movement forward – a message that he repeated throughout his life.
In the first minutes after the decision, Marshall and fellow lawyers George E.C. Hayes and James Nabrit spoke to the press on the steps of the Supreme Court, fielding skeptical questions about the American South’s acceptance of any Civil Rights progress.
Asked by NBC’s Herb Kaplow if he had any further “attempt toward advancement,” Marshall gave an evocative glimpse of the future of the movement, calling for a switch from litigation to organized protests to end segregation in buses, hospitals, and cities. Just over a decade following those remarks, and after many of those protests succeeded in changing segregation rules throughout the country, Marshall became the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court.
You can watch Marshall’s 1954 remarks below, courtesy of NBCUniversal Archives.