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Students Share Insights from Dean Fairfax's Innovative Course

"Road to Brown" Explored the Legacy of Civil Rights Attorneys and the Lasting Impact of Brown v. Board of Education

By ج‎|ج‎

Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, students at أغر؟´«أ½ Washington College of Law (AUWCL) had the unique opportunity to delve deeply into the history and impact of this pivotal case in a course taught by Dean Roger A. Fairfax Jr. last semester. Entitled "Road to Brown," the course highlighted the tireless work of Civil Rights attorneys whose efforts paved the way for the historic decision, focusing on the momentum other Civil Rights cases built to make Brown a reality and discussing the work of pioneering Civil Rights attorney Charles Hamilton Houston.

Reflecting on the meticulous strategy and effort that went into achieving the Brown decision, Paulina Andrews, a 3L, remarked, "I didn't understand, even once I was in law school, how much work went into it. How many years and years and years of strategy and chipping away and trying to get a breakthrough here and get a breakthrough there so that Brown v. Board would be successful."

This acknowledgment underscores the course's objective of teaching students the deeper story behind Brown v. Board of Education and the importance of standing up for what's right. The Dean's course also aimed to inspire students by examining the extraordinary contributions of figures like Charles Hamilton Houston.

"Something I want to bring with me is the inspiration we got from Charles Hamilton Houston," second-year law student Ruth Zeltzer shared. "That he confronted such gigantic and impossible evils and he was able to make a difference."

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund played a crucial role in litigating several cases in the early 1950s that challenged the mandates of "separate but equal" requirements for Black students, ultimately culminating in the Brown v. Board of Education decision. This historical context provided students with a nuanced understanding of the case's significance.

"It's an acknowledgment that, although we wish it were not true, we don't have a country where throughout history all people have had the same opportunities," said AUWCL Professor Lia Epperson. "Brown is a decision that understands that and understands the importance of education as a gateway for that."

For the students who participated in the class and the final trip around Washington, D.C. to see historic case-related sites, the lessons they learned are indelible. Reflecting on the long-term impact of their actions, LLM student Joy Muguku stated, "Whatever actions we play today or whatever we decide to do, it will have a ripple effect on the generations. It might not be the next generation, but generations to come."

This sentiment captures the enduring influence of their legal education and the Civil Rights movement. "This is a continuous fight and this is something that is not one and done," said Katherine Kyriakoudes, a 2L. "So, I hope to carry that fight and that passion for justice and equity into my legal career."

Dean Fairfax's course serves as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle for civil rights and the critical role that education and legal advocacy play in achieving equity and justice. Through their reflections, the students demonstrate a profound understanding of the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education and an unwavering dedication to continuing the fight for equal rights.

As part of the course, students visited various significant locations related to the history of Civil Rights and the Brown v. Board of Education case. These field trip locations included:

  • Charles Hamilton Houston's Childhood Home
  • Charles Hamilton Houston's Adult Home
  • Corrigan v. Buckley House
  • Howard University
  • Howard University School of Law
  • Hurd v. Hodge House
  • John Phillip Sousa Junior High School (Anacostia)
  • M Street School
  • NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. Offices
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Supreme Court of the United States

These visits provided students with a tangible connection to the historical figures and events they studied, enhancing their understanding and appreciation of the Civil Rights movement's legacy.

Hear more from the students in the full video above.