The Man Who Changed the District of Columbia’s Political and Educational System | by Belinda Mallasasime | March 2022

The activist who brought educational reform to the District of Columbia in the 1960s

A photograph of Julius Hobson standing by his car (Photo Source: Boundary Stones)

BBBorn to Julius and Irma Hobson in Birmingham, Alabama on May 29, 1922, Julius Hobson was a politician and activist who served on the District of Columbia Board of Education and the District of Columbia Council in the 1960s and 1970s .

After losing his father as a child, Julius Hobson was raised by his mother and her new husband. Education was a priority in his family because his mother was a teacher. He attended Industrial High School, a school that happened to be the only public school in Birmingham to allow black students. As a high school student, Hobson got his first job at a public library where he had access to many books. Since he was not allowed to take the books home, he spent most of his free time and after-school hours in the library reading about important topics such as abolitionism and history. American.

After graduating, he entered Tuskegee Institute, but his studies were cut short when he was drafted into the US Army for World War II in Europe – where he won a few bronze medals. Upon returning from the war, he was able to graduate from the Tuskegee Institute and later enrolled at Columbia University, but could not cope with the university’s conventional learning style. So he decided to move to Washington, DC to study economics at Howard University Graduate. School. There he met Carol Smith whom he fell in love with and married in 1947. The two had a son Julius Hobson Jr.

During the 1950s, Hobson began to swing into activism as he began to advocate for school desegregation. Eventually, he was named president of the Slowe Elementary School Parents-teacher Association, a position that encouraged him to continue the fight against segregation in schools. Unfortunately, his activism was beginning to weigh on his marriage as his wife Carol accused him of caring more about his job than his family. In 1966, she filed for divorce due to religious differences.

After graduating, Hobson got a job as a researcher at the Library of Congress where he worked for six years before returning to work at the Social Security Administration. In the 1960s, he served as president of the Washington chapter of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) – a nonviolent civil rights organization. As president, Hobson was able to grow CORE from a 15-member organization to hundreds. In May 1963, he launched several protests against black discrimination in housing policies, providing housing for black members of the organization. In 1964, Hobson’s demand that stores hire more black people helped find jobs for thousands of black people.

The same year, after being kicked out of CORE for his authoritarian leadership style, Hobson co-founded a new civil rights organization called the Associated Community Team (ACT). He then sued the public school system after learning that his 10-year-old daughter had been assigned the lowest school track due to her race. He presented several charts to the court that proved there was more funding for white students than for blacks. On June 19, 1967, Hobson won the case, and the court banned discrimination in public schools in the District of Columbia.

The following year, Hobson was elected to the governing body of the District of Columbia Board of Education. In 1969, he decided to run for a seat representing 2 Wards but lost to Evie Mae Washington. Afterwards, he decided to start a non-profit organization that would help end discrimination in schools. He founded the Washington Institute for Quality Education.

On January 15, 1971, Hobson was convinced by the DC Statehood party to run for delegate from the United States Representative Districts, but lost to Walter E. Fauntory. Then in 1974 he was elected to the council for the District of Columbia where he served until 1971 when he was diagnosed with cancer and ultimately died on March 23, 1977 at University Hospital in Washington. . To this day, Julius Hobson is recognized as one of the most influential black civil rights activists in history.

Janice G. Ball