Last week I had the pleasure of meeting several relatives of Heman Marion Sweatt, the civil rights figure whose courage and perseverance resulted in the integration of The University of Texas School of Law. The occasion was the 25th Annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights on our campus.
Heman Sweatt was the plaintiff in the landmark case, Sweatt v. Painter, in which the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that separate law school facilities for African Americans in an Austin basement could not provide a legal education equal to that available at UT. The 1950 decision enabled Sweatt to enroll here later that year and established an important precedent for Brown v. Board of Education, which ended legal segregation in public schools.
Coincidentally, last week The New York Times published an editorial the same day entitled, “One Nation, Indivisible.” The article described a recent decision by the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that upheld a lower court decision permitting UT to consider race—among other qualifications—in admissions.
The Times wrote, “Like many other universities, the University of Texas values diversity’s many education benefits. Students educated in a diverse university are better prepared for a diverse work force and for helping bring about what the Supreme Court called the dream of ‘one nation, indivisible.’”
UT’s history is inextricably linked to the story of access to education in America. From Sweatt v. Painter to Hopwood v. Texas to the Top 10% Law to the most recent case—Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin–UT remains at the forefront of our national conversation on diversity, equality, and education.
We honor the memory of Heman Sweatt and remain committed to building a diverse student body of exceptional students who will serve society with distinction.