Charles Hamilton Houston was born September 3, 1895, in Washington, D.C. He was born to William and Mary Houston. His father was an attorney and his mother was a hairdresser and seamstress. Years later, Houston would embark on a career similar to his father’s, realizing major feats in his field.
Houston attended M Street High School (later known as Dunbar High School) in Washington, D.C. When he graduated from high school, he enrolled in courses at Amherst College in Massachusetts. There, he was the only Black student in his class. He graduated in 1915 and was selected to be the class valedictorian that year.
Upon graduating from Amherst, Houston returned home to Washington. He joined the U.S. Army in 1917. He joined the all-Black officers training camp in Fort Des Moines, Iowa. He was deployed to France where he experienced severe racial discrimination. This prompted him to study law even more so than he had already considered.
In 1919, Houston received his discharge from the military. He immediately entered Harvard Law School. In addition to being an excellent student, he also became the first Black editor of the Harvard Law Review publication. In 1922, he graduated and received the Frederick Sheldon Fellowship. This enabled him to study law at the University of Madrid.
After returning from Spain, Houston practiced law with his father at Houston & Houston. After a number of legal accomplishments, Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took note of his work. In 1935, he was hired as Special Counsel to the Association. He eventually called upon his student Thurgood Marshall for assistance.
Houston and Marshall
As the duo toured the American south, they challenged school segregation. They developed a legal strategy that would ultimately dismantle segregation in the education system. They worked together for a total of 15 years. The pair solved numerous cases and eventually contributed to the destruction of segregation.
Houston ultimately laid the foundation for the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Charles Hamilton Houston died on April 22, 1950, in Washington, D.C. He was 54 years old. He died four years prior to the Supreme Court’s decision to abolish segregation in the public education system.
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