Moorfield Storey (1845–1929)

2012-09-12 09:47:23

Moorfield Storey (1845–1929)Born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1845, Moorfield Storey graduated from Harvard College in 1866 and served briefly (1867–1869) as personal secretary to U.S. Senator Charles Sumner, also of Massachusetts. Admitted to the bar in 1869, Storey went on to become a prominent Boston attorney. In the late 1800s, he was a supporter of the Mugwumps, a group of independent Republicans with reformist leanings who generally favored civil service reform, low tariffs, independent politics, and anti-imperialism. As a reformer, Storey also fought political corruption and the mistreatment of Native Americans. By the turn of the century, Storey was an outspoken critic of the mistreatment of African Americans, immigrants, Filipinos, Jews, and other persecuted groups as well. At the same time, his private legal practice flourished. In 1900, linking together domestic and foreign affairs, Storey unsuccessfully ran for Congress on an antiimperialist platform. He argued that American imperialism both reflected and continued racial strife at home. Storey later served as president of the Anti- Imperialist League (from 1905–1921), in which capacity he supported independence for the Philippines. Throughout his career, Storey was strongly influenced by Charles Sumner, who argued as early as 1849 that segregation was unconstitutional and that laws should make no racial distinctions. However, Storey was also a supporter of sectional reconciliation until the 1890s, and he only began speaking out against post-Reconstruction southern policies when southerners formalized the Jim Crow system of segregation, disfranchisement, and racial violence. Responding to growing racial violence nationwide, Storey was among the sixty prominent Americans who responded to the call ofMaryWhite Ovington to meet in February 1909 to protest a recent race riot in Springfield, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln’s hometown, on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. This meeting led to the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Storey became its first president in 1910, a position he held until his death in 1929. Also in the early 1910s, Storey successfully ended the exclusion of African Americans from the American Bar Association. Based on his knowledge of history and law, Storey argued against the then-prevalent ideas of white racial superiority, and he suggested instead that mistreatment and unequal opportunities explained the lower status of minorities in the United States. Storey also noted that the southern penchant for violence and discriminatory legislation proved that whites were concerned about the possibility of black achievement. As NAACP president, Storey had little to do with the day-to-day functioning of the NAACP, but his legal skills proved invaluable. He strongly promoted the idea that civil rights could be most easily secured through the court. As NAACP legal counsel, he fought against idea that federal government could not prevent private discrimination and argued that segregation was unconstitutional. For support, he used investigations conducted by local NAACP chapters around the nation and preliminary preparation done by local attorneys. In the end, Storey served as NAACP counsel in its first three important cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. In Guinn v. U.S. (1915), Storey argued against the constitutionality of the Oklahoma ‘‘grandfather clause.’’ In its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the grandfather clause as a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment. Storey’s dedication to civil equality was most apparent in his involvement in the legal preparations of Buchanan v. Warley (1917), a case involving residential segregation. In Buchanan, Storey suggested that racial purity was a myth and that residential segregation was a violation of the equal protection and ‘‘privileges and immunities’’ clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and also a violation of property rights of black property owners. In its decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a Kentucky law could not require residential segregation. Storey compared this important victory with the infamous Dred Scott decision of 1857. Storey also helped prepare the brief for Nixon v. Herndon (1927), against the all-white primary. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that a 1923 Texas law had unlawfully denied Lawrence Nixon the right to vote in the Democratic primary solely because of his skin color, a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. This case was an integral part of the long-standing NAACP campaign against the white primary, which ended in victory with Smith v. Allwright (1944). Some historians suggest that the NAACP’s successful campaign against segregation itself—outlawed by the Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1954—was significantly strengthened by these victories won by Storey.


References and Further Reading

  • De Wolfe, Mark Antony. Portrait of an Independent, Moorfield Storey, 1845–1929. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1932.
  • Hixson, Jr., William B. Moorfield Storey and the Abolitionist Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.
  • Kluger, Richard. Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality. New York: Random House, 1975.
  • Storey, Moorfield. Charles Sumner. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1900.
  • ———. The Reform of Legal Procedure. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1912.
  • Storey, Moorfield, with Marcial P. Lichauco, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898–1925. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1926.

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1917)
  • Guinn & Beal v. United States, 238 U.S. 347 (1915)
  • Nixon v. Herndon, 273 U.S. 536 (1927)
  • Roberts v. City of Boston, 59 Mass. 198 (1849)
  • Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1856)
  • Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944)

See also Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954); National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Sumner, Charles