The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000 Page: 68
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The ensuing public outcry has received passing historical attention in a
number of accounts of the modern development of the University of
Texas at Austin, and it has been discussed when Barbara Smith Conrad
has returned to the Austin campus as an honored graduate of the institu-
tion. Yet the passions that the Smith case aroused and the long-range im-
pact that it had on race relations at the university have not been
analyzed. The Smith controversy reveals how administrators at the univer-
sity used the rationale of defusing racial tensions to forestall the imple-
mentation of integration for as long as possible."
The Smith case also shows that the political leaders of Texas, the ad-
ministration of the university, and to some extent the university's faculty,
shared a common goal of resisting the dismantling of segregation as an
educational policy. Although careful not to adopt confrontational
rhetoric that became common in the Deep South, the leaders of the Uni-
versity of Texas did not believe that artistic merit or demonstrated talent
from a black student should outweigh the maintenance of racial lines
across the university. Behind the cover that public opinion in the state
would not let them move forward toward racial equality, they strove hard
to insure that integration remained a goal and not a reality.
The question of African-American performers appearing at Universi-
ty of Texas campus functions antedated even the celebrated case of
Sweatt v. Painter that saw the United States Supreme Court order the ad-
mission of a black applicant to the University of Texas School of Law.
During the mid-1940s, student organizations had invited African-Amer-
ican artists to play at concerts and dances at the Austin campus. When
students did so, they aroused the ire of the board of regents and the
university administration. In 1943 a regent, D. F. Strickland, became
outraged when the "1943 all-University dance committee" booked the
famed alto sax player and band leader Benny Carter and his orchestra.
Two years later the question arose again, and the university president,
Theophilus S. Painter, told Strickland that "there is quite a demand for
negro [sic] bands because of some quality which I do not comprehend,
VF3o/B.b. (CAH), hereafter Wilson Statement. The main archival sources for the Smith inci-
dent are in the POR), College of Fine Arts, Box VF3o/B.b. (CAH); and Desegregation, Chancel-
lor's Office Records, Box 53 (CAH). The Almetris Buren Papers, Box 4A247, has an extensive
file of clippings under the heading, "Barbara Smith Conrad, 1957-1978."
' Ronnie Dugger, Our Invaded Universities: Form, Reform and New Starts (New York: W. W. Nor-
ton, 1974), 66; Almetris Marsh Duren, with Louise Iscoe, Overcoming: A History of Black Integration
at the University of Texas at Austin (Austin: University of Texas at Austin, 1979), 5-6; Joe B. Frantz,
The Forty-Acre Follies (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1983), 20o6-208; Doug Rossinow, The Politics of
Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1998), 34, 37. Avrel Seale, "Barbara Smith Conrad: Mezzo-soprano, civil rights pioneer,"
Texas Alcalde, 87 (Nov./Dec., 1998), 24-29, is an interview with Barbara Smith Conrad that gives
her perspective on the events of 1957. The primary focus of the essay is on her background and
what happened after the 1957 occurrence.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000, periodical, 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/m1/94/: accessed September 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.