Every day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with Phillys7thWard.org and the Education Post, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer. But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History Month…February is just the Blackest.
Today, our featured Black Educator Hall of Fame Member is Charles Hamilton Houston.
Charles H. Houston, an eduactivist, was born on September 3, 1895 in Washington D.C. was a renowned civil rights attorney, is widely recognized as the architect of the civil rights strategy that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education.
He graduated from the M Street High School at age 15 and as the only Black student in his class, he graduated from Amherst College class valedictorian. After graduating, Houston joined the armed forces and fought in World War I. Houston’s experience in the racially segregated U.S. Army, where he served as a First Lieutenant in World War I in France, made him determined to study law and use his time “fighting for men who could not strike back.”
Following his military discharge, Houston entered Harvard Law School; excelling in his studies, becoming the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, and graduating with high honors in 1922. Because of his excellence in school, he was recommended for further studies in Spain.
Once he returned home, Houston practiced law with his father and began teaching part-time at Howard Law School in the evening. Through that time Howard Law School had trained approximately three fourths of the approximately 950 African American lawyers practicing in the United States.
At Houston’s suggestion, Howard Law School became a full-time law program and Houston was made the Dean of the School.
Houston is most known for being the architect behind the ultimate success of the long struggle to end the separate but equal doctrine accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson with the Brown v. Board decision in 1954. Houston with a group of mainly Howard University lawyers, including Thurgood Marshall, working with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, led the successful effort to overturn de jure discrimination.
Sadly, Houston would not live to see segregation declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education. He died in 1950 from a heart attack.
Houston was posthumously awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1950 and the main building of the Howard University School of Law was named Charles Hamilton Houston Hall in 1958 and Harvard Law School named a professorship after him and in 2005, opened the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice.
Charles Hamilton Houston; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.
For more information on Charles Hamilton Houston, visit the following site.