Our Black Lawyers: From Charles Hamilton Houston to Barack Obama and on…

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Before there was Johnnie Cochran, there was Charles Hamilton Houston.

Below is a TBS video made in its 1991 Black History Month Series. In this video, Barack Obama, then the first black president of Harvard Law Review, renders homage to Charles Hamilton Houston another great black ancestor, a legal legend who made the way and shone the light for many of alive today.

Charles Hamilton Houston was a great lawyer, and a black man in a racist America. He was born in 1895 the same year the Supreme court passed the “separate but equal” decision. That decision marked the beginning of formalized apartheid in the world politics.

Houston attended Harvard law school and was a member of the Harvard law school journal. He graduated cum laude. In 1923 he became the first African American to earn a Doctor of Juridical Science degree at Harvard, where he studied under Felix Frankfurter.

Charles Hamilton Houston was the master-mind lawyer who planned and directed the legal battle that got the Supreme Court of the mid-20th century to end apartheid system in America.

He became known as “The Man Who Killed Jim Crow.” Charles Hamilton Houston played a role in virtually every civil rights case before the Supreme Court between 1930 and Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Charles Hamilton Houston can be safely described as the Nelson Mandela of America. He saved America from itself.

Charles Hamilton Houston also trained dozens of black lawyers who later became legal luminaries in their own time, a good example being Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was instrumental to several civil rights decision.

Barack Obama was obviously inspired by the towering story of this incredible black lawyer, Charles Hamilton Houston. Barack was inspired not just by Charles Hamilton Houston but by other lights like Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Jomo Kenyatta and so many other known and unknown men and women in this life including his own mother.

Despite all the controversy of politics, Barack Obama, in turn has today become a living legend in his own time, inspiring millions.

As Obama rightly observed during his first election campaign, we each stand on the shoulders of giants. Seeing that this is true, then take the right step and have no fear. You all stand on the shoulders of your giant guides.

Never forget to be all the good you can be, in this your life time. You are a light and a way maker for coming generations.

As the sages yet told us: You can be the best you can, not only by doing great things, but also by doing little things with great love.

Be wise like serpents, be innocent like doves.


Jide Uwechia

November 20, 2011

See http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/trialheroes/charleshoustonessayF.html

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