Charles Hamilton Houston

On September 3, 1895, Charles Hamilton Houston was born in Washington, D.C., to William Le Pré Houston and Mary Houston (née Hamilton).  William, whose parents had been enslaved, had become an attorney and Mary worked as a seamstress.  His parents’ careers and outreach allowed them to live in the middle and upper-class community, “Strivers’ Section”, of DuPont Circle in northwest D.C.  The name of this community, according to the National Park Service website, “derives from the area’s longstanding association with leading individuals and institutions in Washington’s African American community.  The recognition of a special enclave of African American leaders in the area goes back more than eighty years, when it was described by a contemporary writer as the ‘Strivers’ Section’ or the ‘community of Negro aristocracy.’”

At fifteen years old, Houston graduated from the all-Black, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.  After, he would then matriculate Amherst College, a private liberal arts institution in Amherst, Massachusetts.  Houston, the only Black student in his class, graduated, Phi Beta Kappa, as one of six valedictorians in 1915.

In 1915, Charles Houston returned to Washington, D.C., where he taught English for two years at Howard University, a private, historically Black university that was established in 1867.  In 1917, Houston enlisted in the U.S. Army, ultimately becoming commissioned as a First Lieutenant in field artillery.  Based at Fort Meade, Maryland, he served in France and Germany during World War I.  The racism, discrimination and segregation that Houston experienced while serving in the military cemented his decision to become an advocate, via the law, of those whose rights were infringed upon and/or violated.

For greater enlightenment...

The Historic Murder Trial of George Crawford: Charles H. Houston, the NAACP and the Case That Put All-White Southern Juries on Trial by David Bradley

Crusaders in the Courts: How a Dedicated Band of Lawyers Fought for the Civil Rights Revolution by Jack Greenberg

Simply Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality by Richard Kluger

Groundwork: Charles Hamilton Houston and the Struggle for Civil Rights by Genna Rae McNeil

Root and Branch: Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and the Struggle to End Segregation by James Rawn, Jr.

Emancipation: The Making of a Black Lawyer, 1844-1944 by J. Clay Smith, Jr.

The NAACP’s Legal Strategy Against Segregated Education, 1925-1950 by Mark V. Tushnet