Clio Logo

The Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage is a community center named to honor the well-known civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall. It is located in what used to be the Twelfth Street YMCA, the first-African American YMCA. The building that now houses the Thurgood Marshall Center has a long history of enriching the lives of African Americans who likely would not have had the opportunity for this experience otherwise. During its days as the Twelfth Street YMCA and Anthony Bowen YMCA, this building welcomed African Americans who often had nowhere else to go for enrichment because of segregation. Now, years later, this building is being put back to use for many of the same purposes. The building of the Thurgood Marshall Center has been named a National Historic Landmark.


  • A portrait of Thurgood Marshall.
  • The Thurgood Marshall Center, formerly known as the Twelfth Street YMCA.

The Thurgood Marshall Center was often used by the attorney Thurgood Marshall himself during its days as the Twelfth Street YMCA. This is where many of his legal strategies were created. One of the most famous of these strategies was the one used in the Brown v. Board of Education trials. Brown v. Board of Education is one of the most famous known legal proceedings of the Civil Rights Movement. Thanks to the strategy of Marshall and the other attorneys working on these cases, segregation was banned within public schools (TMCT).

Founded in 1853, the Twelfth Street YMCA was the first African-American YMCA established in the country. It occupied several sites before raising $100,000 to build this Italian-Renaissance style structure, constructed between 1907 and 1912. The building's architect, Sidney W. Pittman, was one of the first African-American architect. This building was a home and a community sanctuary for African-Americans in segregated Washington. Some prominent Americans associated with the YMCA include poet Langston Hughes, Dr. Charles Drew, basketball coach John Thompson, and world heavyweight champion Joe Lewis. In 1972, the institution renamed itself after Anthony Bowen, a freedman and civic leader who was one of its founders.

The Twelfth Street YMCA building was reopened as the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage in the year 2000. It is now home to many groups and organizations for enrichment and heritage of African Americans. Some of these groups include the Washington Literacy Center, the Washington Chapter of Concerned Black Men, and the Project Re-Direct Passport Club. The Thurgood Marshall Center also hosts organizations such as the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the Financial Freedom Center of the NAACP, and IKG Cultural Resources. These groups and many more contribute to the enrichment of this community center (TMCT).

The building is a National Historic Landmark and part of the U Street Heritage Trail.

Miller, Richard E. A Home Away From Home: City Within a City, Historical Marker Database. June 3rd 2020. Accessed August 5th 2020. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=130788.

TMCT: Thurgood Marshall Center Trust, Inc. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. http://192.185.182.225/~suprmcrt/