One of the History Department’s recent Ph.D. recipients, Gordon Andrews, has just published his first book, Undoing Plessy: Charles Hamilton Houston, Race, Labor and the Law, 1895-1950. The book is published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Undoing Plessy explores the manner in which African Americans countered racialized impediments, attacking their legal underpinnings during the first half of the twentieth century. Specifically, Undoing Plessy explores the professional life of Charles Hamilton Houston, and the way it informs our understanding of change in the pre-Brown era. Houston dedicated his life to the emancipation of oppressed people, and was inspired early-on tochoose the law as a tool to become, in his own words, a "social engineer." Further, Houston's life provides a unique lens through which one may more accurately view the threads of race, labor, and the law as they are woven throughout American society. Houston understood the difficulties facing black workers in America, and, by marshaling his considerable skills as an attorney and leader, was able to construct a strategy that fought for full integration by changing the laws of the United States at the highest level. With unparalleled success, Houston developed a three-pronged strategy from 1925-1950 that focused on the courts, the workplace, and politics, securing the expansion of labor rights and civil rights for African Americans. Better than most, Charles Houston understood that the right to work was inherently necessary to achieve real, not just perceived, freedom.
Gordon has been a member of Grand Valley State University’s History Department since 2009. Before joining GVSU's History Department, he taught history and social studies for many years at Portage Central High School.