During an era when segregation was legal and rampant in schools, and employment and housing were outright denied based on race, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the late Congressman John Lewis, and a host of other historic civil rights icons persevered and blazed the trail for others to follow and progress in society. They broke down barriers and opened the gateway not only for themselves, but for countless contemporaries and future generations by achieving historic and sweeping legislation such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, and 1968 Fair Housing Act, the last of which was signed into law exactly one week after Dr. King’s assassination.
Black lawyers were a significant influence in the legal battle for equality, with luminaries such as Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Judge Damon J. Keith, fiercely advocating for and upholding the rights for Blacks to have equal treatment and opportunity under the law. These 20th Century legal giants used the law as a tool of justice, and much of the fight they began continues today. Lawyers like myself has enormous gratitude and are forever indebted to these architects of some of the most important battles for civil and human rights ever known to the world.
Even with the victories for equality ushered in during the civil rights era, Blacks, women, and other minority groups continue to face an uphill battle for full equality, furthering the need to use the law to address these challenges. The national struggle for equity in this era of Black Lives Matter and the need to use the court system as a theater to render justice to the long aggrieved and under-represented class is overdue. As Dr. King said, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”