Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Finkelman on Why Sweatt v. Painter Matters

Paul Finkelman, Albany Law School, has just posted Breaking the Back of Segregation: Why Sweatt Matters.  It appears in 36 Thurgood Marshall Law Review 7-37 (2010) (published in 2012).  The Thurgood Marshall Law School, home of the law review, was first opened in response to Heman Sweatt's  lawsuit against the University of Texas Law School, which denied him admission because of race.  Here's the abstract:
In this article the author argues that Sweatt v. Painter (1950) deserves greater prominence in legal history and the history of integration. Sweatt is the first case in which the Supreme Court articulated that under some circumstances "separate but equal" could never pass constitutional muster because the institution created for blacks could never be equal to the institution for whites. Here the Court held that no matter what the State of Texas create for blacks, it could never create an law school that was "equal" to the law school at the University of Texas at Austin. Significantly, the unanimous Court that decided this case include a graduate of the University of Texas Law School, Justice Tom Clark. Thus, this article argues that Sweatt set the stage for Brown v. Board of Education by sending a clear message to the South that in important ways segregation could never create equal institutions.