The 25th anniversary of the Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights at The University of Texas at Austin will be celebrated with a four-part speaker series that includes an evening with the Sweatt family and a special ceremony that honors the first admitted African American students as integration pioneers.
The annual symposium is coordinated by staff, faculty and students in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and is co-sponsored by colleges, schools and other administrative offices campus-wide. It honors the legacy of Heman Sweatt, the first African American student admitted to The University of Texas at Austin School of Law, and commemorates the ruling in Sweatt v. Painter that brought an end to segregation at public colleges and universities.
“The annual Heman Sweatt symposium is one way our campus comes together to discuss our past and the progress we’ve made,” said University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr. “This year’s 25th anniversary is a wonderful tribute to the first African American pioneers who opened doors to diversify the university and made a UT education possible for future generations.”
The first event of this year’s symposium features Gary M. Lavergne, author of “Before Brown: Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice,” who will speak on Thursday, Jan. 27, at noon in the Texas Union Eastwoods Room 2.102. In his book, Lavergne chronicles Sweatt’s life and struggles as the plaintiff in Sweatt v. Painter, honoring his courage and determination. Later that day, Lavergne will interview members of the Sweatt family as they share personal memories about Sweatt’s life and his experience at the university. The presentation starts at 6:30 p.m. in John Hargis Hall and is co-sponsored by the Undergraduate Admissions Center.
On Feb. 24, two educators instrumental in creating the first Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights — Dr. George C. Wright and Dr. Edwin R. Sharpe — will discuss their role and partnership toward institutionalizing such an event on campus in the 1980s. Wright is president of Prairie View AandM University, and Sharpe is a clinical professor in the Department of Educational Administration at The University of Texas at Austin.
On March 24, Louise Iscoe, author of “Overcoming: A History of Black Integration at the University of Texas” will talk with Dr. Kevin Foster, assistant professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies. Foster will interview Iscoe about campus climate issues during this historic period of integration and plans to update her book.
On April 14, a panel of University of Texas at Austin faculty will discuss the role feminism has played in promoting civil rights across disciplines.
The symposium culminates on May 6 with “A Special Evening of Honors,” to be held at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center on The University of Texas at Austin campus. The event will recognize and celebrate the first African American student pioneers to integrate the university.
“It is wonderful to have such respected scholars and researchers participating in this year’s symposium to discuss and comment on this transformative period in the university’s history,” said Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement. “We are honored to have the Sweatt family join us this year. The importance of Heman Sweatt’s fight to get into the School of Law and the ruling in Sweatt v. Painter cannot be understated. The law suit not only ended segregation at colleges and universities, it opened the door for the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education four years later.”
Learn more about the speakers and symposium events. All events are free and open to the public.