Sunday, February 6, 2011

Heman Sweatt: A Civil Rights Pioneer

The Chronicle Review (Nov. 26, 2010) contains a review essay of interest to scholars of the civil rights era. It is “Diverse in the Heart” by Eric Hoover, who discusses Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice (University of Texas Press, 2010). Gary Lavergne, a University of Texas admissions officer, penned the book. Before Brown discusses the life of Sweatt, an “introverted letter carrier” and the plaintiff in Sweatt v. Painter (1950). Lavergne paints his protagonist in heroic strokes, writes Hoover. The book is a story about a man “who left the comfort of anonymity to fulfill a purpose greater than his own aspirations.” The review also discusses the link between Sweatt’s fight for access to the University of Texas in the postwar years and the university’s defense of its affirmative action program during the 1990s.