From Publishers Weekly
1954's Brown v. Board of Education is the one of the most celebrated Supreme Court civil rights rulings, but the dry run against racial segregation began four years earlier, when Heman Marion Sweatt, an unassuming Houston mailman, emerged victorious in the struggle against the University of Texas Law School's admissions policies. Focusing on the lead-up to the Sweatt v. Painter case, and the case itself (which proves somewhat anticlimactic), Lavergne provides a penetrating, if occasionally dry, history of the carefully calibrated NAACP-led fight against intractable state officials at a time when there were no professional or graduate schools for blacks in most southern states; "Heman Sweatt will never darken the doors of the University of Texas," remarked the Texas attorney general at the time. Thurgood Marshall, the future Supreme Court justice who led Sweatt's New York-based NAACP legal team, confronted not only white segregationists committed to the status quo, but also Texas blacks, who were split on the issue. Though Sweatt's victory is ultimately bittersweet (finally admitted to the law school, he later dropped out) Lavergne makes a powerful argument for the role Sweatt v. Painter played in ending segregation. Photos.
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"The fight to open the University of Texas to all was a turning point that led to the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the racial segregation it had sanctioned in Plessy. Those who take racial diversity at our preeminent institutions of higher education for granted do so at great peril and diminish the sacrifices of Sweatt and others. Read this book and find out why." (Amilcar Shabazz, Professor and Chair, W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst)
"Like Texas’s founding fathers, Sweatt fearlessly faced evil, and made Texas a better place. His story is our story, and Gary Lavergne tells it well." (Paul Begala, political contributor, CNN)