I just finished reading Dwonna Goldstone's (2006) Integrating the Forty Acres: The 50-Year Struggle for Racial Equality at the University of Texas (University of Georgia Press) which is essentially a reworking of her 2001 dissertation at UT. (I'm surprised that UT Press did not pick it up.) Though it reads too much just like a dissertation, and there is unfortunately very little deep social analysis of why racism took the peculiar forms it took on this campus (and this city), the book should be required reading for all our students (and, if it were possible, faculty and staff).
We find out some amazing facts:
- We find the extent to which Theophilus Painter, famous for producing the first physical maps of genes (on the giant salivary gland chromosomes of larvae of the fruit-fly, Drosophila melanogaster) in the 1930s, was a committed segregationist who resisted the admission of African-American students to UT. (Painter remains one of the most famous biologists ever to have worked here. His biographical memoir by UT alumnus and former student Bentley Glass [Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences, Vo. 59, 1990] conveniently ignores the issue of segregation and only mentions that Painter was "a conservative in the best sense.")
- In 1950, the university finally allowed W. Astor Kirk (an African-American) to attend graduate school classes in political science "but seated him at the back of the classroom with a metal ring around his desk so that 'his blackness wouldn't rub off on the white students" (p. 26; emphasis added). Ever since I encountered this story I have been trying to find what peculiar "scientific" theory the UT administrators held. One hunch: Intelligent Design.
- Both Frank Erwin and Harry Ransom--after whom monumental campus buildings are named--emerge from Goldstone's story as stauch segregationists (and likely racists).
- The University of Oklahoma integrated its football team before UT, in 1958, and its African-American recruit, Prentiss Gautt, helped rout UT in the 1959 Sugar Bowl. This is particularly good to know as the UT football teak heads to almost certain defeat against their traditional rivals this coming Saturday. Goldstone also claims: "Perhaps to make his black players more appealing to white alumni, current head coach Mack Brown does not allow black players to braid their hairs into cornrows or wear dreadlocks (p. 134)." This, though, does not seem quite credible.
Well, I won't spoil the book for you. It's certainly worth reading.