Howard Jenkins 1946-1955
Howard University Law School, Washington D.C. (1946-1955)
At the end of World War II, Howard Jenkins, Jr., went to Washington, D.C., to draft a closing report for the War Labor Board. While there, he met George Johnson, the Dean of Howard University Law School. Johnson invited Jenkins to join the faculty. Jenkins taught from 1946-1956 at Howard University during the “golden years for the civil rights movement.” Jenkins believed these were the golden years because the Howard Law faculty was intimately involved in all of the social engineering going on in the Supreme Court, including working on cases involving race relations and the efforts to use the law to change some of the problem areas confronting African Americans. Jenkins taught labor law and administrative law at the law school, and medical jurisprudence to medical students.
During his years at Howard University, Jenkins became involved in the protection of teachers and in efforts to change the law regarding the problems of unemployment, transportation, housing, and education of African Americans. “We were the central clearinghouse for black lawyers all over the country. We prepared the litigation to desegregate the railroads, the public schools, and to eliminate racial distinctions in many areas,” Jenkins stated.
In 1954, Jenkins helped write legal briefs for Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483. Brown v. Board of Education was joined with four other cases to attack the separate but equal doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). The Supreme Court held that the plaintiff children had been deprived of equal protection laws guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment. Later Jenkins applied the studies of the psychological effects of segregation on African American school children to the African American worker.
Jenkins also represented several African American organizations. He worked for the building laborers local union in the District of Columbia and for the National Alliance of Postal Workers. During the McCarthy Era, African Americans were being systematically eliminated from government jobs on the pretext that they associated with some communist organization. Jenkins specialized in taking cases before the Loyalty Review Board and was quite successful in getting employees reinstated, not by contesting the authority of the Board but by using the Loyalty Review Board’s own rules.
For example, a young African American man who was a messenger at the State Department was fired for being a homosexual. This was sufficient grounds for dismissal because homosexuals were thought to be an easy blackmail target of communists. Howard learned that the dismissal was based on the opinion that the messenger swished when he walked. Jenkins suggested the messenger go to an orthopedist. The orthopedist signed an affidavit stating that the left leg was a quarter inch shorter than the right leg, and the messenger was reinstated.
During 1946, Howard worked for William Willard Wirtz on the National Wage Stabilization Board. Also during these years, Howard Jenkins, Jr. felt that he needed to know more about Philosophy of Law, Constitutional History, Legal History, and Constitutional Law so he attended New York University in 1955. While Howard Jenkins, Jr. was at New York University he met Edmond Cahn, the author of The Sense of Injustice, a work that later influenced Howard’s views on labor law and African Americans.