Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice

By Gary M. Lavergne | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
A Line in the Dirt

A democracy that cannot deal fairly with its minorities cannot stand.
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
, EDITORIAL, MAY 1, 1946

On Friday, March 21, 1947, Attorney General Price Daniel told an assembly of reporters that he was “disappointed” at the reaction of Negro leaders to the state’s generosity: $3,350,000 appropriated to provide higher-education facilities for “colored” youth. African American Texans, the attorney general insisted, were being led astray by “some Negroes” whose “primary purpose… was to break down the segregation laws, not primarily to obtain an education.”1

Much had changed since Judge Roy Archer’s initial ruling: there was a Texas State University for Negroes in Houston and a temporary law school on East 13th Street in Austin. Daniel also presented a number of affidavits to the reporters, including one from E. J. Matthews, stating that Heman Sweatt had been officially informed that he had been accepted to the Texas State University Law School for Negroes, which was supposedly equal in every way to UT Law—an opportunity that Sweatt chose not to take advantage of. Other affidavits documented the establishment of the 13th Street facility and other efforts the state was making to provide the equality mandated by federal court rulings, especially Gaines.2

Sweatt’s reaction to the state’s efforts was predictable: an interim law school in Austin and a new university in Houston were not enough. “Assume I go to the interim law school for a year [and] then I transfer to the new university,” Sweatt asserted, “how do I know what will be at Houston? The suit goes on.”3

According to the NAACP’s Annual Report for 1947, the historic brief filed by Sweatt’s attorneys in response to Daniel’s actions “opened an uncom-

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Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1- Prologue 5
  • Chapter 2- One of the Great Prophets 8
  • Chapter 3- The Cast of Characters 20
  • Chapter 4- Iron Shoes 34
  • Chapter 5- The Shadow of Failure 45
  • Chapter 6- The Second Emancipation 58
  • Chapter 7- A University of the First Class 73
  • Chapter 8- [A Brash Moment] 86
  • Chapter 9- The Great Day 96
  • Chapter 10- [Time Is of the Essence] 111
  • Chapter 11- [the Tenderest Feeling] 124
  • Chapter 12- The Basement School 139
  • Chapter 13- A Line in the Dirt 152
  • Chapter 14- [I Don't Believe in Segregation] 170
  • Chapter 15- The Sociological Argument 187
  • Chapter 16- The House That Sweatt Built 204
  • Chapter 17- [Don't We Have Them on the Run 222
  • Chapter 18- A Shattered Spirit 238
  • Chapter 19- The Big One 253
  • Chapter 20- Why Sweatt Won 267
  • Chapter 21- Epilogue 285
  • Notes 295
  • Bibliography and Notes on Sources 335
  • Index 343
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