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Black Representation in Law

Anthony Brown

Photo by: Sarah Silbiger

Who is Anthony Brown?

Anthony Brown is a long standing and decorated public servant to the State of Maryland, and was recently elected as the first black State Attorney General. He attended Harvard for both his bachelor's and doctorate's degrees. During his time in the military, he rose to the rank of Colonel and received a brown star for his time during the Gulf War (Pugh, 2023). From 1998 until 2007, Anthony Brown represented Prince George's county in the Maryland House of Delegates. From 2007 until 2015 Brown served as Lieutenant Governor. In 2016 Athony Brown was elected to be the Representative for the 4th Maryland district in U.S. Congress. Brown is married, and a father of three children (Pugh, 2023).

What does the State Attorney General do?

The State Attorney General acts as the legal advisor for the 3 branches of government, supervises state agencies, acts as public advocates and represents the state government in federal and state court cases. They can also propose legislation to the state legislators (National Association of Attorneys General, 2023).

The Maryland State Attorney General is the chief legal officer of the state, and therefore, "has general charge, supervision and direction of the legal business in the state," (Maryland Attorney General's Office, 2023). In some states, the State Attorney General acts as the head of the State Department of Justice, and therefore all of the district attorney and marshals within the state (Winkler, 2010). All state agencies have to get their rules approved by the State Attorney General's office (Maryland Attorney General's Office, 2023).

Why does this matter?

Historically black communities have suffered at the hands of systemic racism, and with every black representative elected to public office, the change becomes a more tangible goal. Positions like the State Attorney General offer the chance for legislation to be passed that will help close the gap between black and white communities. State Attorney General offices are the legal advisors of the state, the heads of Department of Justices, and government representatives in both the federal and state courts of law. People like Anthony Brown can introduce plans to state legislators to push progress forward, whether it be for higher education, better healthcare access, or criminal justice reform.

In fact, during his campaign for State Attorney General, Brown dedicated an entire platform toward minimizing the disparities between black and white people in various economic, social, and political issues (Brown, 2022).

Examples of these Issues included:

  • The racial wealth gap

  • Criminal Charges & Criminal Justice Reform

  • Higher Education

  • Healthcare & COVID-19

Thurgood Marshall

Photo from: Rachel Ponder

Who was Thurgood Marshall?

Thurgood Marshall was the first black person to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland in 1908. He studied at Liberty University in Pennsylvania, and then went to Howard University of Law. Marshall graduated first in his class at Howard in 1933 (Smentkowski, 2023). When he graduated, he began practicing law and worked toward ending segregation in some of the most influential cases in American history. Marshall also worked as a staff lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In 1972, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Marshall as a Supreme Court Justice, where Thurgood Marshall dutifully served until 1991 (Smentkowski, 2023).

Impact on American History

Thurgood Marshall was one of the most influential members of the Civil Rights Movement, his impact led to him being remembered as Mr. Civil Rights (United States Courts, 2023).

During his time as a private attorney, he participated in multiple cases that turned the tide for black people's progress to getting equal rights. Thurgood Marshall won 29 out of 32 cases he argued in front of the Supreme Court (Smentkowski, 2023). Most notably, Marshall participated in the winning of Brown v. Board of Education Topeka in1954, that overturned Plessy v. Ferguson. Brown v. Board effectively ended public school segregation in the U.S. As a Supreme Court Justice, he continued the legal fight for, "equitable justice and treatment of minorities," (Smentkowski, 2023).

Juanita Jackson Mitchell

Photo By: Afro American Newspapers, via Getty Images

Who was Juanita Jackson Mitchell?

Juanita Jackson Mitchell was the first black woman to practice law in the state of Maryland. She attended Morgan State College, and the University of Pennsylvania after she was denied admission at the University of Maryland due to her race (Brown, 2009). However, in 1947, Mitchell returned to Maryland, and was the first black woman to receive a law degree from the University of Maryland (Brown, 2009).

What did she do?

During her career as an attorney, she fought discrimination cases in court, as well as worked for the NAACP on a state and national level. At the NAACP she worked on several projects, including a Voter Registration and for the end of segregation in Maryland (Brown, 2009). "Mitchell was also appointed to the Presidential Commissions by Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson," (Brown, 2009). Mitchell also worked as a teacher at Baltimore high schools, and also focused on youth outreach in the city of Baltimore (Maryland Women's Hall of Fame, 1987).

Juanita Jackson Mitchell also worked alongside Thurgood Marshall in the revolutionary case Brown v. Board of Education (Encyclopedia of Arkansas, 2023).

Why does this matter?

Juanita Jackson Mitchell was not only the first black woman to graduate with a law degree from the University of Maryland, but she also was the first black woman to practice law in Maryland. She paved the way to ending segregation by leading with example and working with other activists like Thurgood Marshall.

During her time as an attorney, she worked on cases to end segregation like Brown v. Board, and as an advisor for the NAACP. Mitchell worked on cases to change discrimination and segregation laws on a state and national level, as well as promoting voter registration and youth education.

Works Cited

Afro American Newspapers. “Portrait of Juanita Jackson Mitchell.” Getty Images, Getty Images, 10 August 2022, Accessed 1 February 2023.

Anthony Brown Campaign. On the Issues, 2022, Accessed 1 February 2023.

Brown, Amy. “Juanita Jackson Mitchell (1913- 1992) •.” Blackpast, 10 June 2009, Accessed 1 February 2023.

Encyclopedia of Arkansas. “Mitchell, Juanita Jackson.” Encyclopedia of Arkansas, 20 November 2020, Accessed 1 February 2023.

Maryland Attorney General's Office. “About Our Office.” Maryland Attorney General, 2023, Accessed 30 January 2023.

Maryland State Government. “Biographies - Janita Jackson Mitchell.” Maryland State Archives, Maryland's Women's Hall of Fame, 1987, Accessed 1 February 2023.

National Association of Attorney Generals. “What Attorneys General Do.” National Association of Attorneys General, National Association of Attorneys General, 2023, Accessed 30 January 2023.

Ponder, Rachel. “Thurgood Marshall: First African American Supreme Court Justice was from Maryland.” APG News, 25 March 2020, Accessed 1 February 2023.

Pugh, Catherine. “Brown, first Black attorney general, targets disparities and bias in Maryland.” AFRO American Newspapers, 19 January 2023, Accessed 30 January 2023.

Silbiger, Sarah. “Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown to run for Maryland attorney general.” Axios, 25 October 2021, Accessed 1 February 2023.

Smentkowski, Brian P. “Thurgood Marshall | Biography, Legal Career, & Supreme Court Tenure.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 20 January 2023, Accessed 1 February 2023.

United States Courts. “Justice Thurgood Marshall Profile - Brown v. Board of Education Re-enactment.” U.S. Courts, 2023, Accessed 1 February 2023.

Winkler, Sarah. “What does an Attorney General Do?” How Stuff Works, 23 March 2010, Accessed 30 January 2023.

Disclaimer: The contents of this website should not be construed as legal advice on any specific fact or circumstance. Its content was prepared by Williams, McClernan, & Stack LLC (a Maryland law firm organized as a limited liability company with its principal office at 22715 Washington Street, Suite 201, Leonardtown, MD 20650 phone number (240) 309-4179). It was designed for general information purposes only. Your receipt of such information does not create an attorney-client relationship with Williams, McClernan, & Stack LLC or any of its attorneys. You should not act or rely on any of the information contained herein without seeking professional legal advice. Williams, McClernan, & Stack LLC’s lawyers are licensed in Maryland. While we welcome you to contact us by phone or email, contacting us does not create an attorney/client relationship. Please do not send us any confidential information until we have established an attorney/client relationship.


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