Although the legal enslavement of blacks ended in 1865, enslavement in fact continued -- by Black Codes, mob rule, violence, discrimination, mis-education and dislocation of the race. It was inevitable that the Supreme Court would step in and define the new relationship of the Negro to the body politic.

Recall that after the Civil War, three amendments were added to the Constitution. The 13th Amendment ended slavery and involuntary servitude. The 14th provided citizenship, protection of life, liberty and property, and equal protection of the laws. The 15th provided that the right to vote should not be denied on the basis of race, color or previous condition of servitude.

Recall also that the late 19th century witnessed a high point in "scientific" and "intellectual" racism, which spread the propositions that the Negro was inherently inferior and lacked the moral fiber to appreciate democracy or participate in it, and that he had no history, civilization or culture worthy of the name.

This thinking found its way into Supreme Court decisions. In 1883, for example, the court struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875, stating that at some time blacks must assume the rank of mere citizen and cease to be "the special favorite of the laws." The upshot was that blacks could not look to the federal government for protection of their rights, but were sent back to the states, the very entities they were running from!

The most comprehensive statement came with the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896. Justice Henry Brown wrote that ''The object of the {14th} amendment . . . in the nature of things . . . could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races. . . {The state} is at liberty to act with reference to the established usages, customs and traditions of the people . . . If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.''

From this decision came the doctrine of "separate but equal," creating the two worlds of race in America, one black, one white. Lynchings, segregation, disfranchisement and "mores" marred the landscape for decades following Plessy. What was especially devastating was that blacks had little or noremedy in the courts -- the agency that, in the social compact, existed precisely to provide redress.

A philosophical and activist approach to the plight of blacks was offered by Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey. Organized protest organizations such as the Niagara Movement, the NAACP and the Urban League began confronting the contradictions in American democracy. But it was not until the Supreme Court reversed the doctrine of "separate but equal" in the Brown decision of 1954 that blacks could begin to realize their universal rights.

It was Thurgood Marshall who argued Brown before the Supreme Court.

Born in Baltimore on July 2, 1908, Thurgood Marshall graduated from Lincoln University and Howard University's Law School. At Howard he was profoundly influenced by Dean Charles Hamilton Houston's belief that the black lawyer must be an ''engineer for social change'' and a ''sentinel guarding against wrong.'' Inevitably, Marshall's career would be on the cutting edge. In 1938, he became chief counsel for the NAACP, figuring prominently in such landmark cases as Missouri ex. rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938), in which the Supreme Court held that Missouri could not deny education to blacks on the basis of race by sending them out of the state for their education; Smith v. Alwright (1944), in which the white primary was outlawed, and Sweatt v. Painter (1950), which required the admission of a qualified black to the law school at the University of Texas.

Determined to attack the "separate but equal" doctrine head on, Marshall and a corps of lawyers and scholars -- many from Howard -- undertook the strategy that in 1954 produced the court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The decision eviscerated "separate but equal" and reinterpreted equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

Thurgood Marshall argued: ''The question is whether a nation founded on the proposition that 'all men are created equal' is honoring its commitments to grant 'due process of law' and 'the equal protection of the laws' to all within its borders when it, or one of its constituent states, confers or denies benefits on the basis of color or race . . .

''Candor requires recognition that the plain purpose and effect of segregated education is to perpetuate an inferior status for Negroes which is America's sorry heritage from slavery . . .''

A unanimous court agreed.

In a real sense, as federal judge John Minor pointed out in 1968, the Brown decision "erased Dred Scott," for only after Brown were Negroes no longer the ''beings of an inferior order'' that Dred Scott had made them.

The Brown decision became the fulcrum for the civil rights movement of the 1960s and affirmative action. It propelled the women's movement into a new era. Worldwide attention gave it impact in many other parts of the world.

In 1961 Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the federal bench in the Second Circuit. In 1965 he was confirmed as U. S. solicitor general. Two years later this son of a head steward of a boat club, and great grandson of a slave, became the first black on the Supreme Court.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the two Marshalls should meet, so to speak, at the 200th anniversary of a document they both profoundly affected. John Marshall, protecting the primacy of property rights and the supremacy of the national government over the states, became architect of a structure that entombed the fundamental rights of blacks. It took a terrible Civil War and several constitutional amendments to crack that structure and the genius of Thurgood Marshall finally to dismantle it.

If we are legitimately to celebrate Chief Justice John Marshall as "expounder" of the Constitution, so must we celebrate Justice Thurgood Marshall as "expander" of it. Because of his success in expanding its meaning, all Americans can look to that document and demand equal justice under the law. To call for his resignation, as some have, is absurd; he should be revered by all Americans. John Marshall is the sole American among the great world law givers memorialized in the beautiful carved stone frieze in the courtroom of the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall should be added to that frieze.