The law school's origins can be traced back to a 1946 lawsuit filed on behalf of Herman M. Sweatt, a black applicant who had been refused admission to the University of Texas School of Law because of the color of his skin. In an effort to avoid the possibility of court ordered integration, Texas State Senate Bill 140 was passed, calling for the establishment of a new university to provide equal but separate facilities for blacks and whites. As a result, Texas State University for Negroes was opened in Austin in 1947, offering higher education courses in law, pharmacy, dentistry, journalism, education, arts and sciences, literature, medicine, and more.
The university, which was later relocated to Houston, took on the Texas Southern University name in 1951. Although the establishment of the university was initially opposed by Thurgood Marshall, who served as the lead council in the Sweatt v. Painter lawsuit, the law school was named after the former US Supreme Court Justice in 1976. Marhsall and the NAACP originally argued against the formation of the “Jim Crow” institution because their ultimate aim was to establish equal opportunity through integration.
Today the Thurgood Marshall School of Law provides students with a curriculum based on a traditional core while also offering ample specialization opportunities. Students can earn certification in International and Immigration law from the Law Institute and gain practical experience the areas of civil law, criminal law, housing law, and immigration law through the legal clinic program. Furthermore, The Earl Carl Institute for Urban and Social Policy provides students with social policy research opportunities.
The law school was renovated in 2004 and now boasts additional library and classroom space, cutting-edge technology, a new legal clinic, new computer labs, and more. Additional student organizations were also added to the list of existing ones. There are now almost 20 student organization offerings including the African Law Students Association, the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, the BlackLaw Students Association, and the Hispanic Law Students Association.
The student-edited Thurgood Marshall Law Review has been published since the early 1970s. The review, which was first called the Texas Southern Intramural Law Review, serves as a legal research and writing forum for legal professional around the globe.
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