Item Details

Interview With J. Clay Smith

Elwood, William A; Kulish, Mykola
Online; Online Video; Video
2006; 1987-07-14
Part one. Civil rights attorney and professor J. Clay Smith discusses the beginning of Howard University Law School and John Mercer Langston. Mr. Smith says the law school's mission was always to make the Constitution a living document. Early students didn't have a high school diploma, just a certificate of literacy. Most first African American lawyers and judges in different states were graduates of Howard. Charles Hamilton Houston taught at Howard; he himself went to Harvard Law School. Houston was known as a hard taskmaster. He was criticized for trying to Harvardize Howard, but he knew the law school had to be comparable to others. Part two. Mr. Smith recalls Houston practicing civil rights test cases in court rooms at Howard University. Both faculty and students would pose as the different Supreme Court justices trying the case the next week. Thurgood Marshall was great with people; William Hastie was a gifted writer. Mr. Smith recounts that either Houston or Marshall had to sleep in caskets in African American mortuaries while traveling around the South to assist other lawyers due to threats from the KKK. Mr. Smith contends that the scholarly community is still biased about giving credit to African American scholars. Part three. Mr. Smith talks about Houston as the architect of the modern civil rights movement. Women's liberation lawyers, even conservative lawyers, use the legal strategy designed by Houston to change law. From 3:50 to 10:40, footage of Houston and Hastie portraits. From 10:40 to end, Alvin J. Bronstein interviewed in his office. As a young lawyer Mr. Bronstein traveled south for 1964 Freedom Summer. He was sent to St. Augustine, Florida to work on a law suit that would make hotels serve African Americans. He then went to Mississippi and stayed for five years as a trial lawyer in Macomb where there had been 37 church bombings. He set up offices around the South as part of the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee funded by the ACLU.
Elwood, William A
Kulish, Mykola
Smith, J. Clay (John Clay), 1942-
Digitized by: Cincinnati, Ohio : The PPS Group, 2006.
Source footage for the documentary, The road to Brown : the untold story of “the man who killed Jim Crow” (California Newsreel, 1990), about the life of Charles Hamilton Houston, his crusade for civil rights, and the events that led to Brown v. the Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared the doctrine of separate but equal to be illegal.
Title supplied by cataloger.
Recorded at Howard University, Washington DC.
William A. Elwood Civil Rights Lawyers Project
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Road to Brown : the untold story of "the man who killed Jim Crow."
William A. Elwood Civil Rights Lawyers Project
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Part one of three.

Part two of three.

Part three of three.