Racism, Discrimination, and the Law
Your feedback is important to us!
After viewing our curriculum units, please take a few minutes to help us understand how the units, which were created by public school teachers, may be useful to others.
Sweatt v. Painter (1950)
Homan Sweatt was denied admission into the University of Texas Law School because he was an African-American. He brought suit against the school officials who denied him entrance, more particularly, Theophilis Painter. The purpose of the suit was to force the school to admit him as a student. The Texas court did not demand his acceptance, but gave the state six months to open a law school for blacks. Sweatt refused to attend the black law school, and continued his court action against the officials of the university. The Texas civil court of appeal affirmed the trial courts decision, so Sweatt appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found gross inequities between the two law schools. The University of Texas Law School had sixteen full time and three part-time professors, some who were nationally recognized in their field. Their library contained over 65,000 volumes, and it had 850 students. Its law students had access to a law review, moot court facilities, and scholarship funds. Because many of its alumni occupied the most distinguished positions in their practices and in their public lives, it was considered to be one of the nation’ s ranking law schools. The law school for blacks had five full time professors, twenty-three students, 16,500 volumes, a practice court, a legal aid association, and one alumnus who had become a member of the Texas Bar Association. The justices in this case said they could not find any real equity between the two law schools. They argued that Mr. Sweatt was entitled to all the opportunities afforded by the white law school. They felt it was important to share ideas in an open arena with the very people he would surely meet in his practice. The justices argued that many things that make a law school great are often intangibles such as, the reputation of the faculty, the position and influence of the alumni and their standing in the community. Finally the justices noted that the school in which they were willing to allow Mr. Sweat to attend excluded whites, which comprised 85% of the people with whom he would be dealing with in actual practice of the law. The Supreme Court reversed the lower court decision based on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The University of Texas was required to accept Mr Sweatt as a student.