About Gary Lavergne









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


Before Brown:

Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall and The Long Road to Justice


On February 26, 1946, a black man from Houston applied for admission to The University of Texas School of Law. By this seemingly simple act, Heman Sweatt began a journey that would begin a new era in American education—indeed in American society.


Heman Marion Sweatt



In 1946, the Houston Informer, one of the largest and most influential black newspapers in the country, wrote, “As a symbol, Heman Marion Sweatt marks the emergence of the Negro in Texas as an adult and citizen."


During the drama, Grover Sellers, the Texas Attorney General, reassured white Texans that, “Heman Sweatt will never darken the halls of The University of Texas.”


By the time his lawsuit came before the U.S. Supreme Court, Sweatt found himself a player in a master plan the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had for ending racial segregation in the United States. One of the authors of that strategy, and its chief soldier, was Thurgood Marshall, who would one day become the first black Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The end of enforced racial segregation was not an event but a process—decades in the making. A crucial chapter in that story begins with an overlooked drama—the tale of Heman Sweatt.


From 1947 through 1949 the Sweatt case worked its way through Texas courts, and not surprisingly, each court relied on the accepted law at the time, the separate-but-equal doctrine. The NAACP understood that to end segregation ultimately the United States Supreme Court would have to reverse or at least emasculate the separate-but-equal doctrine. This happened when it ruled on Sweatt in a unanimous decision on June 5, 1950.


Reading before the Heman Marion Sweatt Symposium for Civil Rights

April 22, 2010

The University of Texas at Austin

On April 22, 2010 during the opening session of the Heman Marion Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights, Gary M. Lavergne was called upon to do a reading from his forthcoming book BEFORE BROWN. Gary used the occasion to pay tribute to a Texas civil rights pioneer, Dr. W. Astor Kirk.




Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road To Justice

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