The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 22
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The initial assault on the color line at the University of Texas oc-
curred when Sweatt, a veteran who held a bachelor of arts from Wiley
College and had completed twelve hours of graduate work at the Uni-
versity of Michigan, applied for admission to the Law School in Febru-
ary 1946. After his application was rejected, he filed suit in the Texas
126th District Court on May 16, 1946. The National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People gave him strong support during his
campaign to attend the university as part of their broad-based efforts
to eradicate racial barriers through court action. His case reached the
United States Supreme Court in March 1949, where it was filed on be-
half of the NAACP by a team of attorneys led by Thurgood Marshall.
The Supreme Court, in its opinion delivered on June 5, 1950, agreed
that a hastily organized law school under the aegis of the nascent Texas
State University for Negroes, later renamed Texas Southern Univer-
sity, did not offer a legal education equal to that available from the Uni-
versity of Texas, and ordered that Sweatt be admitted to the Law
School in Austin.2
Although the University of Texas became the first institution of
higher education in the South to admit blacks to its graduate and pro-
fessional degree programs, the doctrine of separate but equal set forth
in Plessy v. Ferguson had not been repudiated. In his briefs, Marshall
stressed the inequality of the separate law schools, focusing not only on
physical differences between the two institutions but also on intangibles
such as reputation. He coupled this argument with a direct assault on
Plessy, submitting an amicus curzae brief signed by law faculty from all
over the United States and a statement from the Department of Justice
condemning the doctrine of separate but equal. The opinion of the
Court, written by Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, ignored the attack on
Plessy, however, and concentrated on the question of inequality. Mar-
shall won an important victory in persuading the justices to declare that
equity in education required more than just equitable facilities, laying
2Michael L Gillette, "Blacks Challenge the White University," Southwestern Historical Quar-
terly, LXXXVI (Oct, 1982), 327-330, Marilyn B Davis, "Local Approach to the Sweatt Case,"
Negro History Bulletin, XXIII (Mar., 196o), 133-136; Teo Furtado, "Cracking the Door of Seg-
regation," Alcalde, LXXV (May/June, 1987), 16-19, Frank L Wright (ed ), "A Study of Deseg-
regation and Integration at the University of Texas," Religious Worker's Association, 1963
(typescript; BTHC, I-1), Richard Kluger, Simple Justice The Hastory of Brown v. Board of Edu-
cation and Black America's Struggle for Equality (New York. Alfred A Knopf, 1976), 261, Michael
L Gillette, "Heman Marion Sweatt: Civil Rights Plaintiff," in Black Leaders- Texans for Their
Tzmes, ed. Alwyn Barr and Robert A Calvert (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1981),
161, 165-167; Raymond Wolters, The Burden of Brown Thirty Years of School Desegregation
(Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984), 71-72, Sweatt v Painter, June 5, 1950, United
States Supreme Court Reports, vol. 94 (Rochester, N.Y: Lawyers' Cooperative Publishing Co.,
1950), 1 12o For more on the role of the NAACP in civil rights reform in Texas, see Michael
Lowery Gillette, "The NAACP m Texas, 1937-1957" (Ph.D. diss., University of Texas, Austin,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/m1/50/: accessed September 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.