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George McLaurin, the first black man admitted to the University of Oklahoma in 1948, was forced to sit in a corner away from his white classmates


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George McLaurin, the first black man admitted to the University of Oklahoma in 1948, was forced to sit in a corner away from his white classmates


George W. McLaurin case was pivotal to Black American’s getting there civil rights. McLaurin case damaged the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” legal position.  The scholar held a master’s degree from the University of Kansas and was a professor at Langston University an Historically Black College and University, until 1948.  NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall, Oklahoma attorney Amos T. Hall, and Black Dispatch newspaper editor Roscoe Dunjee supported McLaurin’s efforts, along with five other Black American students, to pursue advanced professional degrees at the University of Oklahoma.  McLaurin’s cases worked in conjunction with Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher’s lawsuit to open higher education to African Americans in Oklahoma. This helped the foundation for Brown v. Board of Education.

In 1948, the sixty-one year old McLaurin applied to the University of Oklahoma College of Education to pursue a doctorate in school administration. The school faced with the challenge of providing educational programs for McLaurin and five others enrolling in diverse areas, a statewide panel of academic deans recommended the admission of black students to graduate programs.  The Federal District Court ordered O.U. to admit McLaurin. Although he was segregated into separate classroom, library, cafeteria, and restroom areas. Oklahoma later amended its segregation law to allow other black students to attend under similar circumstances. Marshall argued in McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education that this humiliating treatment violated the Fourteenth Amendment.  In 1950 the Supreme Court ruled that the universities must provide the same treatment for African American students as they do for other races.

Sources:

Reese, L. (2007, January 19). George W. McLaurin (1887-1968). BlackPast.org. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/mclaurin-george-w-1887-1968/

John T. Hubbell, “The Desegregation of the University of Oklahoma, 1946-1950,” The Journal of Negro History 57 (October 1972):…



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