Separate Is Not Equal - Brown v. Board of Education

Smithsonian National Museum of American History Behring Center



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Segregated America
The Battleground
Legal Campaign
  • Howard University
  • Charles Hamilton Houston
  • Preparing for Struggle
  • The NAACP
  • NAACP’s Legal Team
  • “Mr. Civil Rights”
  • Targeting Higher Education
  • Power of Precedent
  • Turning Point
Five Communities Change a Nation
The Decision
Legacy
Howard University School of Law Professors

Howard University School of Law: Preparing for Struggle

Charles Hamilton Houston became vice-dean of the Howard University School of Law in 1929 and brought an ambitious vision to the school. At the time, courses were offered only part-time and in the evening. Houston created an accredited, full-time program with an intensified civil rights curriculum. His determination to train world-class lawyers who would lead the fight against racial injustice gave African Americans an invaluable weapon in the civil rights struggle.

Howard Law School Course Syllabus

Howard Law School Course Syllabus

This 1931 memorandum from Houston asked all law school staff to provide an overview of their courses and stated his intention to strengthen the curriculum. He diversified the course offerings and made sure students received more rigorous training for work in the field of civil rights.
(Lent by Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University Archives)

Original HU Law School Building

Original HU Law School Building

This row house in downtown Washington was the home of the Howard University law school when Charles Houston was dean. He strengthened the school’s academic standards and instilled a sense of social mission. Under Houston, the law school graduated a group of highly effective civil rights lawyers, the most illustrious of whom was Thurgood Marshall.
(Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University Archives)

Charles Houston, Mordecai Johnson, and Clarence Darrow

Charles Houston, Mordecai Johnson, and Clarence Darrow

Houston knew many of the foremost legal minds of his day and brought them to Howard as program advisors and speakers. In this photograph he poses with Mordecai Johnson, president of the university, and Clarence Darrow, the famed lawyer who defended the theory of evolution in the Scopes trial in 1925.
Charles Houston arguing a case in court

Charles Houston arguing a case in court

Houston continued to argue cases in court and work for equality in the legal community during his years as dean of Howard’s law school. When the American Bar Association refused to admit African American attorneys, he helped found the National Bar Association, an all-black organization, in 1925.

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