In 1981, South Carolina implemented a federally mandated plan to desegregate its colleges and universities. When the mandate ended in 1986 the state's higher education institutions, including Clemson University, sought ways to ensure that progress toward racial desegregation would continue. It was in that environment that the mission of the Center was specified. The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education approved the establishment of the Center in 1988.
Dr. Herman G. Green
In 1989, Dr. Herman G. Green was appointed director. Originally named the Center for the Study of the Black Experience in Higher Education, in 1993 it was renamed the Charles H. Houston Center for the Study of the Black Experience Affecting Higher Education to honor Charles H. Houston for his work in the school desegregation movement. In 2004, the center was renamed the Charles H. Houston Center for the Study of the Black Experience in Education.
Charles Hamilton Houston
Charles H. Houston, a native of Washington, D.C., was devoted to enabling the educational system in America to embody the spirit of equal opportunity. Moreover, he used his talents and skills as an attorney to mitigate racial oppression that had been enforced through the legal system.
Charles H. Houston's roots can be traced to his great grandfather Jesse Hamilton who was from Rock Hill, SC. A 1922 graduate of Harvard Law School, Charles H. Houston edited the 1935 volume of the Harvard Law Review. He also served as dean of Howard University Law School, where he taught his students how to use laws to address racial injustice and how to act as social engineers as well as lawyers. As first general counsel of the NAACP, he is credited with establishing the legal program of that organization. He was also the first Black lawyer to win a case before the Supreme Court. For more than 20 years, he systematically addressed the essence of the separate but equal principle that was the outcome of the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision. In 1934, equipped with a hand-held camera, he traveled the backroads of South Carolina to visually document the inequality that existed in segregated schools. The legal strategy he designed first concentrated on graduate and professional schools. As his legal team won more cases, they turned toward elementary and high schools. This culminated in the unanimous, landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision — Brown v. Board of Education — which declared segregation of public schools illegal. The case was argued and won by Thurgood Marshall, who later became America’s first African American Supreme Court Justice.
Charles H. Houston’s work left a legacy for all Americans. In 1993, this Center, which is devoted to a similar cause, was named in his honor.