Charles Hamilton Houston Enrichment Program
New England Law | Boston works to foster a comfortable and supportive atmosphere for students of color to help ensure their success in law school. A cornerstone of that effort is the Charles Hamilton Houston Enrichment Program (CHHEP), established in 1990 to:
- Reduce the isolation that minority students can feel in the law school environment.
- Address possible racial bias in the law school community, the legal profession, and the law.
- Promote diversity within the student body.
CHHEP is named after Charles Hamilton Houston, the first general counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Legal Defense Fund and former dean of Howard University Law School. The program is voluntary and open to any New England Law student concerned about issues of race and ethnicity. Its multifaceted approach combines discussion groups with guest speakers and community-building activities.
First-Year Discussion Group
Members of CHHEP and faculty for first-year courses meet on occasion to discuss issues such as race and ethnicity in the classroom, in the legal profession and in the law.
CHHEP sponsors periodic lectures open to the entire law school on issues that affect students of color and the community as a whole. Speakers have included experts from leading academic institutions, legal groups and government agencies.
Asian New Year Celebration
During the spring semester, CHHEP celebrates Asian New Year with an informal party attended by CHHEP students, staff, and first-year faculty.
CHHEP Honor Society
The CHHEP Honor Society recognizes upper-class students who have distinguished themselves academically.
Who Was Charles Hamilton Houston (1895-1950)?
Charles Hamilton Houston was the dean of the Howard University Law School and the lead litigator for the NAACP. In the 1930s, he devised a litigation strategy for the NAACP that would ultimately lead to the rejection of segregation in the United States. Prior to his path-breaking work segregation was legal.
Houston’s crusade for equality began with the training of Howard law students to focus on how they could use the courts to achieve equality. It also began with trips to the South to uncover and highlight the worst results of segregation. Houston recognized that if he could make the country see the terrible effects that segregation had on the black community, and particularly its children, he might be able to defeat the practice and to overturn the laws that upheld it. He had a vision of implementing the constitutional guarantee of equality embedded in the 14th Amendment.
Houston’s strategy was to bring a series of cases that would show that conditions that were supposed to be separate, but nonetheless equal, were actually not equal. Indeed, he believed that these separate facilities for blacks were invariably inferior. In case after case that he brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, he argued – usually successfully – that these inferior facilities violated even the “separate but equal” doctrine then in effect. He forced the courts to focus on details such as the number of books in the libraries, the numbers of teachers, and the overall conditions of supposedly equal educational institutions, from the elementary secondary level through higher education. Houston’s litigation strategy culminated in 1954 with the victory in Brown v. Board of Education in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that facilities that were racially separate were inherently unequal.
Charles Hamilton Houston did not work alone. As the dean of the Howard University Law School and as the head of litigation at the NAACP, he trained and mentored many younger lawyers who worked with him in the fight for equality and subsequently became eminent jurists in their own rights. These included future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall who argued the Brown v. Board of Education case in front of the Supreme Court and William Henry Hastie who served on U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals for twenty-one years, the last three as its Chief Judge. Judges Robert Carter and Constance Baker Motley were other famous jurists who participated in the civil rights litigation efforts that Houston had launched.
For further information on Charles Hamilton Houston, see Genna Rae McNeil, "A Symposium on Charles Hamilton Houston," 27 New England Law Review 589 (Spring 1993).