Historically black law schools
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Historically black law schools (HBLS’s) are American law schools within a HBCU (Historically Black College and University).
After the Civil War and before the Civil rights movement, blacks were for the most part denied access to equal opportunities for education. Higher education for blacks was largely unavailable, prior to the establishment of HBCU’s which were largely the only institutions available for blacks to attend college. Today, 105 HBCU’s exist across the country.
Although at one point, 13 Historically Black Law Schools were established within the United States, currently there are six Historically Black Law Schools within those 105 HBCU’s, which are accredited by the American Bar Association. Those law schools include the following:
- Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University - Houston, TX
- Howard University School of Law – Washington, DC
- North Carolina Central University School of Law – Durham, NC
- Florida A&M University College of Law – Orlando, FL
- The UDC David A. Clarke School of Law – Washington, DC
- SU Law Center - Baton Rouge, LA
Importance of HBLS’s Originally
HBL’s were originally created in response to the exclusion of blacks from white law schools. Segregation was an unfortunate reality in the United States, and the separate-but-equal doctrine only served to continue this tradition of inequality. They traditionally consisted of all or mostly black students. Without them, many blacks would not have had the opportunity to study law at all. Although blacks are no longer facially prohibited from any university or law school, HBL's still serve an important purpose in today’s society and address an array of social issues that still affect the nation.
Importance in Today’s Society
Today, HBS’s are not simply schools that provide a legal education to blacks, but they are schools, which are composed heavily of minorities, promote diversity, and are considered some of the most diverse law schools in the entire United States. In fact, making up 41% of the population, blacks actually represent a minority at Florida A&M University Law School, which is recognized to be the most diverse law school in the United States. Another example is the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Texas, which seeks to educate future lawyers from all over the United States. Its population of black students is only 50%, while the remainder of its student body consists largely of Hispanic students, as well as White, Asian, and Native American. Blacks are actually no longer the majority in half of the HBS’s today. HBS’s provide law students with the unique opportunity to receive an education in an immensely diverse setting, which they would not be able to experience elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the struggles that blacks and minorities continue to face would prevent many aspiring minority law students from attending law school, were it not for the presence of these HBS’s. Traditional admission requirements were originally created as an intentional way to prevent blacks and other minorities from being admitted to historically white institutions. Blacks and minorities have traditionally suffered disadvantages in primary and secondary educational facilities, which has taken its toll on their education and their ability to achieve the academic grades and standardized tests scores as their white and more advantaged counterparts. These disadvantages continue to plague minorities and the socio-economically underprivileged to this day. In response to this injustice, HBS’s “generally maintain lower admissions standards than predominately white schools and often admit more students who fail to meet their criteria than their predominantly white counterparts.” These schools provide many blacks and minorities the opportunity to earn a law degree that they might not otherwise be able to do.
Stimulating Social Change
HBLS’s not only promote racial diversity, but they “advance a greater goal of creating a more just society.” Keeping with the tradition of HBCU’s and HBLS’s, most HBLS’s today include in their mission statement some sort of dedication to improving the social issues that many blacks face. For example, Florida A&M Law School’s mission statement states its purpose is to “produce excellent legal professionals…who…provide public service, enhance justice” and seek to improve the educational needs of blacks. Howard University School of Law’s mission statement is similar, promising to deliver “the professional leadership necessary to advocate and defend the rights…particularly of African-Americans” and to “engage as an institution in the active pursuit of solutions to domestic…social, economic and political problems that are of particular concern to African Americans.”