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The Road to Brown Reflection Paper


Submitted By goodwin1533
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The Road to Brown tells the story of the millions of nameless blacks who faced devastating hardships caused by Jim Crow, which simply robbed them of the rights granted by the 14th and 15th Amendments. Under the "separate but equal" doctrine of the Supreme Court's 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, black citizens were denied the right to vote, to attend white schools, to be buried in white cemeteries, etc. Those who objected were liable to be lynched. The era of Jim Crow provoked men such as, Charles Houston to fight back for those who were unable. Charles Hamilton Houston, "the man who killed Jim Crow”, grew up during the Jim Crow Era and devoted his entire life trying to destroy it. Houston came from a privileged background in regards to blacks. He finished top of his class in high school preparing him for a prosperous college career. Unfortunately, before Houston had the chance to attend college, he served in a segregated regiment during World War I. During this time Houston wrote about the hate he constantly faced from his fellow countrymen due to his race and promised himself he would study law to fix the lack of justice, changing the situation for his people. In 1920, he entered Harvard law school where he became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. Later, Houston would become dean of Howard University Law School and chief counsel to the NAACP. He also presented a number of supporting cases leading up to Brown v. Board of Education. Houston strategically targeted segregated education as the key to undermining the entire Jim Crow system because he could relate it to the rights granted by the 14th Amendment. However, Houston would need help to fight for racial equality. So in 1929 he put together a team to fight for social justice; the team included men such as, Oliver Hill and William Hasty. The men deliberated the approach they would take to fight Jim Crow and came up with a two-stage attack, which included the requirement that black schools would be treated equal to white schools and that equal salaries would be granted to black teachers. Houston began his case to destroy Jim Crow by documenting the difference of black and white education in South Carolina. Eventually, Houston scored his first case and presented his film. The first case was Murray v. Maryland, which began when Donald Gaines Murray sought admission to the University of Maryland School of Law on January 24, 1935, but his application was rejected on account of his race. Murray appealed this rejection to the Board of Regents of the University, but was refused admittance. Once Jim Crow was finally brought to court, Houston then wanted to equalize black teachers salaries because he thought it would be a key factor in fighting Jim Crow. Case after case, states were being forced to equalize pay. The next case to fight Jim Crow was Gaines v. Missouri, which denied an African American by the name of Lloyd Gaines acceptance to University of Missouri Law School. However, the state of Missouri had offered to pay for Gaines’ tuition to law school outside of Missouri but Gaines turned it down. This not only violated the 14th Amendment, but also the Equal Protection Clause. In the end, the case was brought to the Supreme Court and ruled that there was no provision for legal education of blacks in Missouri, which is where Missouri law guaranteed equal protection (including blacks). Houston truly devoted his entire life in destroying Jim Crow and granting blacks racial equality. He spent countless hours coming up with new ways/tactics to fight this problem. However, the fight came at a cost. Houston was cautioned by his doctor to settle down because of his heart condition, but was too determined to achieve his ultimate goal and would not let anything get in his way. Unfortunately, Charles Houston died on April 26, 1950 due to his heart condition. The man literally gave his life for the cause. Houston’s contributions were very impressive because he never stopped the fight and never realized his effects. Houston’s fight never stopped. Shortly after his death, cases such as, Sweatt v. Painter and McLaurin v. Oklahoma, brought Jim Crow to trial once again. The Sweatt v. Painter case involved a black man by the name of Heman Marion Sweatt, who was refused admission to the University of Texas Law School. When Sweatt asked the state courts to order his admission, the university attempted to provide separate but equal facilities for black law students by creating a completely new school. The case was brought to the Supreme Court and served as an influential landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education years later. Another Supreme Court case was McLaurin v. Oklahoma, which denied George W. McLaurin admission to the University of Oklahoma graduate program in education. However, they were not allowed to deny McLaurin a place in the school but tried to segregate him on campus. He had to sit by himself in a separate section of the classroom, sit at a separate desk in the library, and sit at a different table from the rest of the students in the cafeteria. Fortunately, all of these cases put segregation to trial. Just two years after the death of Charles Houston, segregation/Jim Crow was finally put to the test in the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education. The case began when Reverend Brown and various NAACP members fought to put their children in the close white schools, which led to Brown v. Board of Education. On December 9, 1952, the case was in effect and for seventeen months segregation hung in the balance. May 17, 1954, marked the day when the court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which allowed state-sponsored segregation. The ruling destroyed racial segregation in public schools. However, despite the Brown decision, the south schools resisted, calling the ruling unconstitutional. Extreme violence occurred and there were many Civil Rights lawyers that tried to completely kill all aspects of segregation and used the Brown case as the basis of their argument. Eventually, many blacks forced the Congress to pass the Civil Rights Bill. Slowly the country integrated blacks into daily life and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was created giving blacks complete equality by destroying legal segregation. Twenty years of Houston’s work came to reality. Charles Houston's persistence and determination was truly inspiring, which helped America/blacks achieve social justice.

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