“Sixty Years of Integration: Civil Rights Then and Now” is the theme of this year’s Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights to be held April 22-23 at various locations on The University of Texas at Austin campus.
It is the 24th such symposium held in honor of Heman Sweatt, the first African American admitted to the university’s School of Law. The Supreme Court ruling that allowed Sweatt to enter the law school paved the way for African Americans’ admission to formerly segregated colleges and universities across the nation.
“The university has had a difficult history with regard to civil rights,” said Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement. “In recent years, however, the institution has made substantial progress creating an inclusive environment. The Sweatt Symposium provides an opportunity for candid discussion and reflection around issues of discrimination, race relations and equity, and how to make that environment even more inclusive.”
This year’s symposium will offer sessions that reflect on that history, progress the university has made in civil rights and what the future might bring. A panel discussion, “Historic Conversations: Sitting at the Knees of Our Elders” includes some of the first African American students to be admitted as undergraduates to the university. Their stories include being slighted by professors, being given lower grades than white peers for similar or better work and being unable to participate in university clubs and events or attend the local movie theatres near campus.
Dr. Edmund T. Gordon, chair of the newly created Department for African and African Diaspora Studies, and Dr. Raymond Johnson, an alumnus who attended graduate school at Rice University and was the first African American student to graduate from Rice, are the keynote speakers.
Dr. Vincent will present “The State of UT Diversity Initiatives” at the opening session of the conference. This year’s symposium also features four student presenters and an exhibit of photographs from the past 60 years.
All sessions are free and open to the public. For a list of events, please visit the Heman Sweatt Symposium Web site at www.utexas.edu/diversity/events/hemansweatt.
The symposium is sponsored by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin, with support from The Precursors, an organization of the students who attended the university during the early years of integration. Participating symposium sponsors include many University of Texas at Austin colleges, departments and administrative units.