African American historian and teacher Marion Thompson Wright (1902-1962) of Newark wrote her doctoral dissertation on “The Education of Negroes in New Jersey.” As a result of her hard work and convincing thesis, Wright became the first black historian to receive a Ph.D. from Columbia University. She documented the varied patterns of school segregation that existed in the state despite an 1881 law that outlawed racial discrimination in public schools. Her study helped to provide the NAACP with hard data in its court challenge to the “separate but equal” doctrine. It was indeed overturned by the Supreme Court in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling in Topeka, Kansas.
A native of East Orange, Wright worked for several years as a case supervisor for the Newark Department of Public Welfare. She later joined the faculty at Howard University and became a full professor there in 1950. She is noted as an historian of African Americans in New Jersey.