Direct Action at the University of Texas During the
Civil Rights Movement, z960o-965
W HILE THE WAR AGAINST RACIAL SEGREGATION WAS WAGED MOST
prominently in the Deep South, the University of Texas at Austin
was also a significant site in the national struggle of African Americans
for civil rights. As early as the 194os, an NAACP chapter formed at the
university-the first on a segregated campus. After a court case and
years of controversy, Heman Sweatt, a graduate of all-black Wiley Col-
lege in Marshall, entered the University of Texas law school in 1950, be-
coming the first African American to integrate a law school in a state of
the former Confederacy. Students at the university had aided in the col-
lection of funds for the Sweatt case.
In his article "Blacks Challenge the White University," Michael L.
Gillette detailed the continuing struggle to integrate the university, dur-
ing which some students and faculty members participated in rallies call-
ing for integration. The university accepted black graduate students in
1955 and undergraduates the following year. Nevertheless, as Richard B.
McCaslin has pointed out, the university's new black students had little
opportunity for extracurricular activities as the vast majority of recre-
ational events and facilities remained segregated, thus providing a target
for continued direct action. Like the the better-known sit-ins in Greens-
boro, North Carolina, the direct action demonstrations at the University
of Texas in the early 196os did not appear spontaneously but were the
outgrowth of these prior years of civil rights activism.'
Despite desegregation on the academic front at the University of
Texas, Jim Crow continued to ride high on the campus and in Austin.
* Martin Kuhlman is a professor of history at West Texas A&M University. He received a
B.B.A. in finance, a B.A. in English, and an M.A. in history from West Texas State University. He
received his Ph.D. in history from Texas Tech University. His dissertation was entitled "The Civil
Rights Movement in Texas: Desegregation of Public Accommodations, 1950-1964."
Michael L. Gillette, "Blacks Challenge the White University," Southwestern Hastorcal Quarterly,
LXXXVI (Oct., 1982), 321-344; Richard B. McCaslin, "Steadfast in His Intent: John W. Hargis
and the Integration of the University of Texas at Austin," ibid., XCV (July, 1991), 21-41;
William H. Chafe, Civilities and Civil Rights. Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Free-
dom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), 17-55.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed May 27, 2016.