Founded in 1966, the ABA's Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice (formerly Individual Rights and Responsibilities) is dedicated to fostering a greater appreciation and understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights among members of the bar and the general public. Through education and advocacy, CRSJ expresses the legal profession's commitment to work to achieve the American ideals of justice, freedom, and equality for all through the legal system. The Thurgood Marshall Award was established in 1992 to help further these goals.
The Thurgood Marshall Award is named for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who epitomized individual commitment, in word and action, to the cause of civil rights in this country. The award is intended to recognize similar long-term contributions by other members of the legal profession to the advancement of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights in the United States. Justice Marshall received the inaugural award in 1992.