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

A New Legal Team at the NAACP

In 1934 Charles Houston left the Howard University School of Law to head the Legal Defense Committee of the NAACP in New York City. Seeking out bright, dedicated attorneys to join the mission, he built an interracial staff that defended victims of racial injustice. Among the lawyers recruited was Thurgood Marshall, Houston’s star student from Howard’s law school.

In July 1938 policy disagreements and health problems caused Houston to relinquish the leadership of the NAACP legal committee to Thurgood Marshall. Summing up Houston’s contribution to the struggle against segregation and racism, Marshall later remarked, “We owe it all to Charlie.”

Charles Houston and his travels

Charles Houston and his travels

Travel was an essential part of being an NAACP lawyer. With this portable typewriter, Charles Houston crisscrossed the country to research and document racial bias and unfair treatment of blacks. As he researched the cases, he created a visual record of his observations with still and moving images. He used this information to formulate his legal strategies.
(Lent by Charles Hamilton Houston Jr.)
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