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Heman Sweatt’s relatives honor his legacy

Members of Heman Marion Sweatt’s family share memories of the civil rights figure who was the first African American to integrate the School of Law.

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Gary Lavergne, author of “Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice,” moderated a panel of members of the Sweatt family, as they shared memories of Heman Marion Sweatt, the first African American to integrate the School of Law.

The panel took place at John Hargis Hall on Jan. 27, 2011 as part of the 25th Annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights hosted by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

The Symposium’s Speaker Series continues with events on Feb. 24, March 24, April 14 and May 6. A full schedule can be found online.

Background information from the symposium’s Web site:

Heman Marion Sweatt applied for admission to the University of Texas Law School 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 United States Supreme Court ruled that separate law school facilities could not provide a legal education equal to that available at the University of Texas Law School, one of the nation’s ranking law schools. The Supreme Court ruling established an important precedent for the desegregation of graduate and professional schools. Challenging the “separate but equal” doctrine, the court affirmed Sweatt’s right to equal educational opportunity and in 1950, he entered The University of Texas at Austin School of Law.

The Sweatt decision helped pave the way for African Americans’ admission to formerly segregated colleges and universities across the nation, and led to the overturn of segregation by law in all levels of public education in the landmark case of Brown vs. Board of Education four years later.

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