The presence of Thurgood Marshall is almost palpable as Sherrilyn Ifill surveys the stately wood paneling, the brown leather chairs in this classroom at the University of Maryland law school. Ifill has been a law professor at the Baltimore campus for 20 years — an achievement made possible by the late Supreme Court justice’s work.
As a young lawyer, Marshall, who lived just blocks away, sued the law school for denying entry to students of color. He prevailed, paving the way for generations of African American lawyers such as Ifill.
On Tuesday, soon after the first black president was sworn in for a second time on the holiday set aside for remembrance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Ifill walked further along the path paved by Marshall, taking the reins of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). Marshall founded and led LDF to landmark court victories against school segregation and other forms of racial discrimination.