Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law has a unique history among America’s law schools. The history of the law school can be traced back to a 1946 lawsuit, Sweatt v. Painter, brought by Herman M. Sweatt, which sought equal protection for racial minorities under the U.S. Constitution. The Texas Constitution mandated separate but equal facilities for whites and blacks in accordance with the infamous precedent set in Plessy v. Ferguson. Mr. Sweatt was refused admission to the University of Texas School of Law because he was black. In order to pre-empt the possibility of Mr. Sweatt obtaining a successful court order, the legislature passed Texas State Senate Bill 140, which established a university to offer courses of higher learning in law, pharmacy, dentistry, journalism, education, arts and sciences, literature, medicine, and other professional courses. It opened in 1946 as the “Texas State University for Negroes,” and later changed its name to Texas Southern University in 1951. During its first academic year, the law school was housed in Austin, Texas, and was subsequently transferred to the new university campus in Houston.
The State of Texas established the institution in 1947 as Texas State University for Negroes in order to thwart the integration of the law school at the University of Texas and maintain that university as a “white only” institution. In 1946, when the NAACP filed the Sweatt v. Painter lawsuit, the State of Texas believed that it needed to establish a “Jim Crow” law school in order to avoid an adverse result in that case. Thus, the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, as well as the university at-large, was created as a consequence of the 1946 lawsuit brought by Heman M. Sweatt. It is important to note that it was Justice Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund at the time, who successfully argued Heman M. Sweatt’s case before the United States Supreme Court.
The Houston African American community was divided on the question of whether to support the establishment of the new “Jim Crow” institution or fight for the integration of the University of Texas. Some believed that equalization of African American educational opportunity could be achieved at the new “Jim Crow” institution. However, the NAACP took the position that the educational equality of Texas African Americans could only be achieved by integration, which left no place for the establishment of the “Jim Crow” Texas Southern University. Thus, the law school began without the support of Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP.
Since its move to Houston, the law school has become an integral part of the Texas Southern University campus. Prior to 1976, the law school was housed in Hannah Hall—the University’s administrative complex. On February 14, 1976, the school was formally named the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in honor of the distinguished U.S. Supreme Court Justice who served as lead counsel in the Sweatt v. Painter case and was moved to its present location.
From the beginning, the Thurgood Marshall School of Law has focused on the important task of providing an equal legal educational opportunity to under-served citizens of the State of Texas. One of the first contributions the law school made was the development of a new cadre of leaders in the African American community.
Likewise, the law school has been greatly enriched by the contributions of its culturally diverse students and faculty. The Thurgood Marshall School of Law is proud that it has produced numerous attorneys and judges of all ethnicities—thereby, significantly impacting the diversity of the nation’s legal community.
Though the school opened its doors in 1947, the law review was not established until 1970. It was originally called the Texas Southern Intramural Law Review. The very first article published in the law review concerned the shortage of African-American attorneys within the legal profession. The Thurgood Marshall School of Law has helped to alter that landscape and now ranks in the top five for law schools graduating African-American attorneys, as well as in the top 25 for the number of Mexican-American graduates. The Thurgood Marshall School of Law has been recognized as the most diverse law school in the country by US News and World Report.
From 1971-1981 the Law Review was called the Texas Southern University Law Review. After the law school formally changed its name to the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 1976, the Law Review followed suit in 1981 by renaming the journal the Thurgood Marshall Law Review. The first issue under the new name was volume 7-1. Now, with over 40 years of publication, the law review is an intense legal research and writing forum for legal scholars and practitioners from around the world.
The mission of the Thurgood Marshall Law Review today is to: