5 great black lawyers whose pioneering works changed America over time

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Charles Hamilton Houston

Born in 1895, Houston was determined to make a difference in a world of racial discrimination. He became known as the Man who killed Jim Crow due to his fight for civil rights, being involved in nearly all the cases between 1930 and 1950. Having had a brief moment in the United States Infantry, Houston later studied at Harvard Law School and became the first African American to serve as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. During his tenure as the head of Harvard University, Houston would train attorneys, including Thurgood Marshall, who would become civil rights advocates. Houston is also famous for challenging the Supreme Court in the 1944 case of Steele v. Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company (1944) 323 U.S. 192 [65 S.Ct. 226] when African Americans were excluded from labour unions. Houston persuaded the court to adopt the rule that unions had a “duty of fair representation” to all workers even if they excluded those workers from membership. He was also instrumental in the Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada. He argued that it was unconstitutional for Missouri to exclude blacks from the state’s university law school since no other comparable institution existed in the state.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: July 16, 2019

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