The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 132
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Southwestern Historzcal Quarterly
This volume analyzes the NAACP's legal strategy against segregated
education from the Garland Fund grant in 1925 to the direct attack on
public schools in 1950. While previous scholarship has emphasized a
deliberate design in the Association's campaigns, Mark V. Tushnet
stresses the influence of organizational needs and imperatives of prac-
tical litigation. His studies of legal actions against inequality in teachers'
salaries and segregated universities illustrate that while the NAACP
strategists had a plan, its contents changed frequently. Such internal
constraints as financial limitations caused the Association to alter previ-
ously devised plans. The legal staff's preferences were also a major fac-
tor, as were negotiations with diverse constituencies and responses to
unexpected legal developments.
The most significant NAACP cases in Texas during this period largely
conform to Tushnet's analysis. The white primary and University of
Texas lawsuits came in response to local and state NAACP groups,
which also located the plaintiffs and affected the litigation's timing. Yet
legal opportunism was the predominant influence. Criticism from
Texas blacks did not deter Thurgood Marshall from dropping one pri-
mary suit and filing another to gain a legal advantage. Transforming
the Sweatt suit from an equalization approach to a direct attack on segre-
gation was a response to legal developments in the case. Here Tushnet's
contention that Marshall adopted a conscious strategy of temporizing
in order to lay "some crucial political groundwork" (p. 104) is not per-
suasive. It is more likely that any delay reflected Marshall's initial uncer-
tainty of the direct attack's efficacy and his inclination to await the
Court's decisions in the earlier university cases.
Nevertheless, Tushnet provides convincing evidence that the
NAACP's litigation campaign did not follow an immutable, predeter-
mined strategy. The mere fact that the Association's lawyers had to
work with the assortment of cases sent forward by local branches gives
strong support to his view. Such limitations, however, did not prevent
NAACP leaders from carefully planning and executing the litigation
campaign. The Texas branches envisaged and implemented successive
offensives against the white primary, the segregated university, and
segregation in public facilities. The national education campaign also
reflected more design than Tushnet suggests. The initial targets were
graduate and professional schools in which physical equality was cost-
lier and more elusive and where white opposition was minimized.
NAACP lawyers systematically eroded the doctrine of "separate but
equal," advancing strong cases while discouraging weak ones. Their ad-
herence to a long-range legal agenda was considerable, even remark-
able, in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but their re-
sourcefulness was even more extraordinary.
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
MICHAEL L. GILLETTE
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/m1/158/: accessed March 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.