AUSTIN, Texas—A keynote address by human rights activist, commentator and comedian Dick Gregory will highlight the annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights April 11-14 at The University of Texas at Austin. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Sweatt vs. Painter decision, which paved the way for African Americans’ admission to formerly segregated colleges and universities.
The theme for this year’s event is “The New Civil Rights Era: Fifty Years After the Sweatt Decision.” In addition to Gregory’s talk, several other activities are planned for the symposium, including a retrospective discussion on the decision, a poetry slam and a law fair. All events are free and open to the public.
Gregory, who is famous for his hunger strikes, Bahamian diet, comedy career and anti-drug activities, will speak Friday (April 14) at 7 p.m. in KLRU Studio, CMB Studio 6A, at 26th and Guadalupe Streets. Seating is limited so audience members are asked to arrive no later than 6:30 p.m. The winners of UT’s Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition, a state-wide contest for high school students, will be announced prior to Gregory’s talk.
Credited with opening many doors for black entertainers, Gregory found comedy an expedient avenue for getting people’s attention. His participation in the civil rights movement of the 1960s also is well documented, as are his efforts for world peace. He is the author of Dick Gregory’s Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat and an autobiography, Nigger.
“This year’s symposium is particularly significant in that we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Sweatt decision, which was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in June of 1950,” said Terry Wilson, executive director of the UT Austin Office of Community Relations and chairman of the Sweatt Symposium committee. “Students, faculty and the general public will have the opportunity to learn more about Heman Sweatt — the man and the events that led to his famous lawsuit — by coming out on Wednesday evening to hear Dr. Michael Gillette’s presentation. He has written extensively about Sweatt and the Sweatt vs. Painter lawsuit.”
Gregory, Wilson added, is an “icon of the civil rights movement and will offer serious and funny commentary on the state of race and human relations in the United States.”
On Tuesday (April 11), nearly 30 law school alumni from UT Austin and Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law will discuss their experiences as law students and now as practicing attorneys. This event, titled “Reflections of Black Law Students: UT Makes Me Sweatt,” will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Texas Union Quadrangle Room 3.304.
“A Retrospective Look at Sweatt vs. Painter,” a lecture by Michael Gillette, director of the Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., will be held Wedesday (April 12). The talk will begin at 7 p.m. in Francis Auditorium, Townes Hall 2.114, 727 E. Dean Keeton Street.
A poetry slam, co-sponsored by the Ebony Sun Java House, will be held Thursday (April 13) in the Texas Union Showroom from 7 to 11 p.m.
The annual symposium is named for Sweatt (1912-1982), who applied for admission to the UT Austin School of Law in 1946, but was denied admission on the basis of race. Sweatt, with the help and assistance of the NAACP, brought legal action against the University. In the landmark case, Sweatt vs. Painter, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate law school facilities could not provide an education equal in quality to that available at the UT law school. Sweatt entered the UT law school in September of 1950.
For more information about the symposium, contact 232-4850.