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The Walter White Project

Randy Stakeman, Jackson Stakeman, Authors

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The Campaign Against Segregated Professional and Graduate Schools

One of the first victories in the fight against school segregation came in 1936 in Maryland.  It was important not just for the victory but because it brought a new member into the NAACP's legal brigade, Thurgood Marshall. Marshall grew up in Baltimore and graduated from its Frederick Douglass High School and Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, a historically black university. Upon graduation he wanted to attend the University of Maryland Law school but was told that blacks could not attend it.  Marshall went to Howard University Law School instead where he came under the tutelage of Charles Houston.  When the Baltimore branch of the NAACP wanted to challenge the University of Maryland Law School's segregation policy Marshall was eager to help.  He headed the legal team of Amherst College graduate Donald Gaines Murray when the law school refused to accept his application. The Marshall legal team successfully argued his case and the Maryland Court of Appeals set aside the segregation policy in 1936.  Unfortunately their ruling was only confined to Maryland and did not affect the rest of the South.

A second case regarding Lloyd Gaines' attempt to enter the University of Missouri Law School was argued all the way to the Supreme court by Charles Houston. In December, 1938 the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that:

the state of Missouri was required, under the Fourteenth Amendment, to provide Lloyd Gaines a legal education equivalent to that provided white students.  The ruling eliminated out-of-state tuition grants as an acceptable way for a state to fulfill its obligations to black residents who sought graduate or professional education.  Gaines, the Court ruled, was entitled to be admitted to the University of Missouri Law School if "other proper provisions for legal training" were not available in the state. [Source Note]

Years of work were ahead to eliminate segregation in professional and graduate schools in states like Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky. The Gaines decision was, however, an important step forward engineered by the NAACP and its legal cadre.
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