cover of book

Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice
by Gary M. Lavergne
University of Texas Press, 2010
eISBN: 978-0-292-77802-3 | Paper: 978-0-292-74295-6 | Cloth: 978-0-292-72200-2
Library of Congress Classification LC212.722.T4L38 2010
Dewey Decimal Classification 344.7640798


Winner, Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize for Best Book on Texas History, Texas State Historical Association, 2010
Carr P. Collins Award, Texas Institute of Letters, 2011

On February 26, 1946, an African American from Houston applied for admission to the University of Texas School of Law. Although he met all of the school's academic qualifications, Heman Marion Sweatt was denied admission because he was black. He challenged the university's decision in court, and the resulting case, Sweatt v. Painter, went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in Sweatt's favor. The Sweatt case paved the way for the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka rulings that finally opened the doors to higher education for all African Americans and desegregated public education in the United States.

In this engrossing, well-researched book, Gary M. Lavergne tells the fascinating story of Heman Sweatt's struggle for justice and how it became a milestone for the civil rights movement. He reveals that Sweatt was a central player in a master plan conceived by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for ending racial segregation in the United States. Lavergne masterfully describes how the NAACP used the Sweatt case to practically invalidate the "separate but equal" doctrine that had undergirded segregated education for decades. He also shows how the Sweatt case advanced the career of Thurgood Marshall, whose advocacy of Sweatt taught him valuable lessons that he used to win the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954 and ultimately led to his becoming the first black Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

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