About the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center

The Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center is the flagship setting for the study and practice of civil rights law at Howard University, the leading historically Black university in the United States. We seek to expand civil rights, human rights, freedom, and equal justice under the law by integrating legal advocacy, grassroots organizing, and academic study. 



Howard University School of Law has been at the forefront of civil rights progress since its founding in 1867. Howard alumnus Justice Thurgood Marshall and former Howard University School of Law Dean Charles Hamilton Houston crafted the 20th century’s paradigmatic legal campaign that culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Brown v. Board, in turn, catalyzed the 1960s Civil Rights Movements, a dynamic period of transformation that led to the passage of the nation’s seminal civil rights protections. In 1967, Justice Marshall became the first Black Supreme Court justice. 


The Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center fuels social change by fostering collaboration between law, policy, scholarship, and grassroots organizing. 


We advance civil rights and human rights law by providing direct litigation support and rigorous policy research. With the Human and Civil Rights Law Clinic, we engage in strategic partnerships with national and local organizations dedicated to litigating civil and human rights issues. We also develop policy expertise to inform local and national activists, and advocates promote community-led campaigns. Current organizational partners of the clinic include the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the ACLU, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights, the Advancement Project, Law for Black Lives, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.


We shape public discourse on racial equality by providing a platform for scholarship and debate on cutting edge civil rights issues. The Center will serve as a repository for scholarly research and intellectual engagement on civil rights and human rights issues. With the Human and Civil Rights Law Review, we solicit and publish cutting edge academic research on civil rights doctrine. We partner with the Law Review, academic centers, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations to convene conferences, panels, debates, and discussions on urgent racial justice issues, including our bi-annual conference, “Race, Racism, and American Law.”


We provide a launchpad for activists to help ensure grassroots organizing stands at the forefront of the burgeoning civil rights movement. As part of this effort, the Center works closely with Howard's Human and Civil Rights Law and Organizing Collaborative to support grassroots activists and ensure that civil rights advocacy is movement-driven. The Collaborative will build relationships with community organizations, engage in public education projects, and host trainings and workshops for community members on civil and human rights and racial justice issues.