Cornell Law Review Volume 90 Issue 2

Brown and the Desegregative Ideal: Location, Race, and College Attendance Policies

Although Brown concerned primary and secondary public education, the road to Brown ran through several higher education cases in which black students were denied admission into predominantly white colleges and universities.  In these cases, the relevant universities crucially influenced place as states physically excluded blacks from these white public spaces.  In response, states erected black colleges, started black law schools, paid for scholarships for blacks to attend colleges or professional schools in other states, or required blacks to eat, sit, and study in designated segregated areas within the university’s facilities.  A stunning photograph shows G.W. McLaurin, the first place student to attend class at the University of Oklahoma, sitting in an anteroom adjacent to the regular classroom, separated from his white classmates.  McLaurin was further assigned “a special desk in the library and a special room in the student union building [to] eat his meals.”  Clearly, space counts in college, and always has.


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