1950 June 5

Univ. Texas Law School Must Admit African-American: “Sweatt v. Painter”


The Supreme Court on this day ruled that Heman Sweatt, an African-American, had been denied admission to the University of Texas Law School in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and ordered him admitted to the law school. At the time, the Texas state constitution prohibited racially integrated education. The Texas District Court delayed a decision for six months, giving the state time to create a law school for African-Americans in Houston.

The Supreme Court, in the Sweatt v. Painter decision on this day ruled against the state, holding that the new separate law school was not truly equal to the University of Texas law school because of differences in facilities, the number of faculty, the size of the library, and other intangible factors such as the reputations of the school, its faculty, and its alumni.

The decision was an important step toward the Court’s historic decision on segregated public schools in Brown v. Board of Education, on May 17, 1954.

The Court: “We hold that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that petitioner be admitted to the University of Texas Law School.”

Watch a documentary on integration at the University of Texas (then and now): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Idpa9mw530Q

Learn more: Gary LaVergne, Before Brown: Herman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice (2010)

Learn more about Heman Sweatt: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsw23

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