Key Coverage

The University of Texas Austin Battles a Tumultuous Legacy

With the hiring of Shaka Smart as head coach of its men’s basketball team in early April, ­The University of Texas at Austin became one of only three schools in all of NCAA Division I sports (the others being Georgia State University and Stanford University) with Black men at the helm of both of the school’s revenue sports.

The magnitude of this announcement is amplified by what has been a complicated legacy of race at the flagship Texas institution.

The University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) is the university from which three landmark Supreme Court cases on diversity in higher education have been born. ­ These include Sweatt v. Painter, the 1950 case in which ­Thurgood Marshall would successfully argue against the “separate but equal” precedent set in 1896’s Plessy v. Ferguson case, blazing the way for 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In Sweatt v. Painter, the court ruled that Heman Sweatt, a Black man, should be admitted into UT-Austin’s law school because the law school at Texas State University for Negroes was inferior.