Blacks Challenge the White University
MICHAEL L. GILLETTE*
FOR A FEW DAYS IN OCTOBER, 1938, THE HISTORY OF SEGREGATION AT
the University of Texas might have been different. When George
L. Allen, a Negro, appeared at the geological auditorium to enroll in
an extension business course, confused officials admitted him. With his
fees paid, his registration completed, and class tickets in hand, he began
attending the seminar in business psychology and salesmanship. His
presence posed a problem for the University, since statute and the state
constitution stipulated that "separate schools shall be provided for the
white and colored children, and impartial provision shall be made for
both." Although Texas lacked a graduate and professional school for
blacks, never before had a Negro applied to the University. Now the
state's tradition of segregation was in jeopardy because a clerk and a
professor had allowed Allen to enroll and attend classes.
The situation also posed some difficulty for Allen. The Austin dis-
trict manager of Excelsior Life Insurance Company had only applied
to the University in order to be refused admission. NAACP officials in
Dallas, who had arranged his attempt, believed that Allen's rejection
and the prospect of a court action would pressure the legislature into
providing scholarships for Texas blacks to attend out-of-state schools.
"The only wrench in the whole machine," Allen remarked, "was that
they admitted me."2
But the NAACP's plan ultimately worked as the organization had
intended. Ten days after registration, Professor C. P. Brewer called
Allen to a conference in the Driskill Hotel and informed him that he
would have to withdraw from the course. When Allen declined to do
* Michael L. Gillette is chief of the Oral History Program at the Lyndon Baines John-
1George L. Allen to M. L. G., Feb. 14, 1982, interview; Dallas Express, Oct. 15, 1938;
Texas, Constitution (1876), Art. VII, Sec. 7 (quotation). Article 2900 of Texas Civil Statutes
required separate schools. See 1928 Complete Texas Statutes . .. [Vernon's Texas Statutes]
(Kansas City, Mo., 1928), 637.
2Dallas Express, Oct. 15, 1938; Allen to M. L. G., Feb. 14, 1982, interview.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/. Accessed June 30, 2015.