From Segregation to Integration: One Man’s Fight For Higher Education

Written by Rewindingblack

by Kristina Byas

Donald Gaines Murray became the first African-America to enroll at the University of Maryland School of Law in 1936. It was a huge accomplishment for Murray, but it took much work in order for him to achieve such a victory and get the education he desired.  Before he could remove the color barrier in Maryland for all blacks, he had to fight his own battle with the system first.

Murray graduated from Amherst College in 1934 with a Bachelor of Arts. The following year he applied to the University of Maryland School of Law, but his admission was denied because of the color of his skin. Murray appealed the decision and was once again met with a denial, but this wasn’t the end of his battle.

With the help of the Alpha Phi Beta fraternity, the case of Murray V. Pearson began.  Murray was initially represented by Belford Lawson, but when the case finally went to court, Thurgood Marshall and Hamilton Houston would become his representation. Marshall made the point that there was no program offered in the state of Maryland that was specifically for blacks, so they could not deny Murray admission to the only school with the program, even it was a an institution that only whites attended.

Following the trial, Raymond A. Pearson was ordered to allow Murray to attend the university. The ruling was appealed to the Court of Appeals in Maryland, but they too ruled that Murray be admitted to the university.

Although Murray had won the case and was allowed admittance to the school, he did not have enough to money to cover the cost of tuition and books. Once again. The Alpha Phi fraternity stepped in, helping Murray with his college expenses.

Murray graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1938 and went on to practice law with Douglas, Perkins and Murray.


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