Academic journal article The Journal of Gender, Race and Justice

In Response to the Call for Social Justice, Historically Black Law Schools Represent the New Mission of Educational Diversity in the Legal Profession

Academic journal article The Journal of Gender, Race and Justice

In Response to the Call for Social Justice, Historically Black Law Schools Represent the New Mission of Educational Diversity in the Legal Profession

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

Historically Black Law Schools (HBLSs) have become the new face of diversity in legal education. After the Supreme Court held the University of Missouri's practice of excluding blacks from its law school unconstitutional in 1938, the state's unfortunate response was to establish a separate law school for blacks only under the misguided separate-but-equal doctrine.* 1 Public law schools' rejection of blacks initially developed into a constitutional issue during the 1930s after it became clear that the separate law schools intended for blacks only were so deprived of adequate resources that they could not meet minimum obligations under the separate-but-equal doctrine.2 In the late 1940s, Arkansas rationally decided that maintaining truly equal facilities for blacks and whites was financially unreasonable, and integrated its law school.3 Arkansas was the first Southern, white public law school to admit blacks.4

In 1950, the Supreme Court ordered the University of Texas to admit blacks to its law school despite the fact that Texas had established segregated law schools exclusively for blacks.5 Texas originally established Texas State University for Negroes6 to serve the Jim Crow separate-but* equal purposes of the state.7 The law school now bears the name of Thurgood Marshall and has transformed itself into the second most racially diverse law school in the nation.8

While speaking on the Texas Southern University campus to celebrate the naming of the law school in his honor, Justice Thurgood Marshall said: "There is no place in this world for just another law school. That won't do us any good. This [law school] must become a different and, more importantly, a superior law school. And there is a big gap. Legal education is crying for just such a law school... ,"9 Justice Marshall urged the law school designated to bear his name "to meaningfully do what must be done, and that is very simple: Serve the people."10

Justice Marshall strongly appealed to members of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law community to follow the tradition Charles Hamilton Houston started at Marshall's alma mater, Howard Law School.11 According to Justice Marshall, Houston was very frank about his position and told law students in his class, "I am not training lawyers; I am not training members of the bar. I am training social engineers who will go out and do things for the people."12 One commentator has described Houston as "the most important civil rights lawyer during the first half of the twentieth century."13 Scholars generally recognize Houston for his role as the legal guru who advised Justice Thurgood Marshall, as well as other lawyers, on how to develop and put into operation effective civil rights litigation tactics to confront the separate-but-equal Jim Crow polices.14

The new educational-diversity concept requires a law school curriculum to embrace social justice for every member of society if it is truly committed to meeting Justice Thurgood Marshall's challenge to serve the people.15 Because socioeconomic-status discrimination is a "conceptual relative"16 of racial discrimination in America, the new educational diversity must aggressively attack racial and economic inequality with equal vigor. Legal educators at HBLSs must now welcome the opportunity to provide a quality legal education to a multiethnic and diverse student body while incorporating, in their teaching strategies, an energetic commitment to civil rights and economic equality as tools of social justice. HBLSs have demonstrated the ability to attract students who are not black, which advances numerical racial diversity.17 However, HBLSs must go beyond the noble achievement of promoting racial diversity in legal education and advance a greater goal of creating a more just society where common people are always more important than corporate profits. HBLSs must meet the challenge of providing a legal education to students who understand that protecting the bottom line of a corporate client's pocketbook at the expense of a person's health, safety, or a decent wage is to abandon the dream of making America a more just society. …

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