Published on: Tuesday, February 6, 2024

He is known as “The Man Who Killed Jim Crow” and the first General Counsel of the NAACP, but his contributions don’t stop there.

A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School, Charles Hamilton Houston was integral in dismantling Jim Crow laws. In his time at Harvard, Hamilton became the first Black student elected to the editorial board of the Harvard Law Review. After graduating from Harvard in 1923 and studying at the University of Madrid in 1924, Houston was admitted to the D.C. bar and practiced law with his father.

Hamilton was the Dean of Howard University Law School. He later left Howard University to serve as First Counsel for the NAACP, where he played a role in the majority of Supreme Court civil rights cases. Houston saw the inequality in school segregation as one of the best test cases for attacking the Jim Crow regime.

He was an important participant in almost every civil rights case that made it to the Supreme Court between 1930 and 1950, fighting to ensure African American students received equal academic opportunities and access to proper education. Although Charles Hamilton Houston did not live to see Plessy v. Ferguson overturned in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, he is famously known in history as “The Man Who Killed Jim Crow.”

Houston mentored a generation of Black attorneys including, Thurgood Marshall

His accomplishments have been honored by the NAACP, Howard University, and Harvard Law School and will continue to be honored for years to come.

In celebration of Black History Month, the Training Division is honoring black legal minds in the United States who have advanced civil rights and continue to inspire advocates to dismantle systems of oppression and work for a better tomorrow.