Lawyers v. Educators: Black Colleges and Desegregation in Public Higher Education

By Jean L. Preer | Go to book overview
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resist the further extension of segregation in any form whatsoever. Well, the most obvious result of the Gaines case is the extension of segregation into graduate and professional work for Negro students in the South. So I am asking, "Did the N.A.A.C.P. know what it wanted and did it want what it got from the Gaines case?" 144

Johnson, like Charles Houston, argued that the creation of more separate schools was a predictable outcome of the Gaines case, but disagreed with Houston that this was an acceptable intermediate step in the fight for legal equality. He even disputed the educational value of the new schools. "Furthermore," he declared, "these separate Negro graduate schools are going to be pretty mediocre affairs, and once they are set up they will acquire a vested interest which will make a change of fundamental policy all the more difficult."145

Crisis editor Roy Wilkins immediately took issue with Johnson and declared, "The issue was plain as a pikestaff and the result was hardly in doubt from the drawing of the first petition."146 Counsel Charles Houston responded to Johnson at hearings before the Senate Committee on Education and Labor on the proposed Educational Finance Act of 1941. He listed the implications of the Gaines case: it banned out-of-state scholarships as a device to ease mounting pressure by Negroes for higher education; it warned northern states that segregation could not be instituted except at a prohibitive cost; it raised the ceiling on educational opportunities for Negroes who could now demand state-supported graduate and professional programs; it meant that regional universities must be established for both blacks and whites. The cost of creating new separate facilities in higher education, as well as that of providing public schools for Negroes in sparsely settled rural areas, put new demands on limited southern state resources. 147 Houston, on behalf of the NAACP, favored federal aid, allocated proportionately by population, as the only way to provide the needed funds. At similar hearings in 1943, Houston expressed concern that expenditures in Missouri for the separate law and journalism schools not drain off money that might have been spent for public and secondary education. 148 Federal aid to public schools, he declared, would assure the greatest good to the greatest number, leaving the states to support higher education.

Although Nathan Margold's report emphasized inequalities in elementary and secondary education, Charles Houston and Thurgood Marshall redirected the Association's efforts to higher education and to legal training in particular. The situation in law school education presented the intertwined legal and educational problems common to segregated higher education. In the 1930s, no segregated state provided a separate law school for Negroes. Thus black students suffered from unequal access while black colleges suffered from unequal programs and support. The fundamental strategic decision made by lawyers for the NAACP was to attack educational inequality


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Lawyers v. Educators: Black Colleges and Desegregation in Public Higher Education


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