AUSTIN, Texas—A special exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Sweatt vs. Painter decision will be displayed at The University of Texas at Austin’s beginning April 11. Stepping Away from Segregation: Sweatt vs. Painter will remain on view in the Tarlton Law Library through September.
The exhibit draws heavily from the papers of Tom C. Clark, who was an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court when Sweatt vs. Painter was decided in June of 1950. The decision paved the way for African Americans’ admission to formerly segregated colleges and universities.
Heman Sweatt applied for admission to the UT Austin School of Law in 1946, but was denied admission on the basis of race. With the help of the NAACP, he brought legal action against the University. In the landmark case, the 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.
The opening of the exhibit is in conjunction with the University’s annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights April 11-14. Several activities are planned for the symposium, including a retrospective discussion of the decision, a poetry slam, a law fair and a keynote speech by human rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory.
The exhibit also features the Charles T. McCormick Papers and draws from the law school’s history files. McCormick was dean of both the “white” UT law school and the newly created Texas State University for Negroes Law School.
A substantial portion of the exhibit illustrates Texas’ struggle to create a “separate but equal” law school in reaction to the lawsuit. Another segment of the exhibit traces Justice Clark’s struggle with developing an effective legal rationale for reversing the Texas Supreme Court decision, which had barred Sweatt from the UT law school. Also prominent is a display of photographs of Heman Sweatt and then-NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall during the historic legal battle.
For additional information on the exhibit, contact Stephanie Swenson Towery at (512) 232-3802 or Mike Widener at (512) 471-7263.
For more information about the Sweatt Symposium, contact Terry Wilson at 232-4850.