2005 The Whitest Law School Report
and Other Law School Rankings Related
to Racial/Ethnic Diversity in Law School
Professor Vernellia Randall

Legal Education Before Affirmative Action
Chapter 2: L.S.A.T., Rankings, Law School Admissions and Traditionally Discriminated Against Racial Groups

What's New!

(Based on 2004 ABA/LSAC Information)

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Pages

Admission Factors
LSAC Policies
LSAC Practicies
Not that Good
LSAC ScoreBands
SALT and LSAC
Ltr frm LSAC
Ltr frm USNEWS
Education Attainment
Selected Readings
Use of Quota
Minoritoes in Legal Ed
Racism ABA
Bar Study
Racism Stupid!
Black Matriculants

   
   

 


 

 

 

 William C. Kidder

William C. Kidder, The Struggle for Access from Sweatt to Grutter: a History of African American, Latino, And American Indian Law School Admissions, 1950-2000, 19 Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal 1-41 (Spring, 2003)(190 Footnotes)

 

Over the past half-century, the struggle for integration and equality in American legal education has been long and arduous. While a history of the carefully orchestrated series of legal challenges to segregation is beyond the scope of this Article, because Sweatt v. Painter has both historical and contemporary significance, it is a logical starting point for the discussion of law school admissions. In Sweatt, the Supreme Court unanimously held in 1950 that, under the Equal Protection Clause, Heman Marion Sweatt had a right to enroll at the University of Texas Law School (UTLS) rather than a hastily constructed separate and inferior law school designated for African Americans. At the time that Sweatt, a postal worker, filed suit against UTLS, there were only about a dozen African American lawyers in the state of Texas. In the fall of 1950, Sweatt and Iíve other trailblazing African Americans finally became a part of the UTLS entering class of 280 after a four-year legal challenge to a provision of the Texas Constitution that reserved the University of Texas for White students. While UTLS did not explicitly bar Chicanos and Latinos from enrolling, at mid-century, it was more typical for Latinos to be completely excluded from law school simply by virtue of myriad social and economic barriers that forced them into the lowest rungs of the labor market.

In Sweatt v. Painter, an important forerunner of the more famous Brown v. Board of Education case, the Court also noted the importance of integration to the functioning of legal education and the practice of law:

Moreover, although the law is a highly learned profession, we are well aware that it is an intensely practical one. The law school, the proving ground for legal learning and practice, cannot be effective in isolation from the individuals and institutions with which the law interacts. Few students and no one who has practiced law would choose to study in an academic vacuum, removed from the interplay of ideas and the exchange of views with which the law is concerned.

While the Court spoke eloquently about equality under the Constitution, Heman Sweatt and others had a daily confrontation with the real meaning of inequality. After bravely enduring cross-burnings, tire slashings, and racial slurs from students and faculty, Sweatt withdrew from UTLS in 1951 without graduating. Subsequently, during much of the 1950s and 960s, and as late as 1971, UTLS, like most of the ABA-accredited law schools, had no entering African American students.

Perhaps the most extreme example of entrenched obstructionism in defending Jim Crow racism in law school admissions involves the University of Florida College of Law (UFCL) and Florida public officials. Virgil Hawkins first applied to UFCL at the age of forty-three in April 1949 and was denied admission solely because he was Black. Hawkins's tortuous legal battle spanned nine years, and it became embroiled in the Florida gubernatorial race. The litigation included several petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court and five appeals before the diehard segregationist Florida Supreme Court, which repeatedly and illegally ignored the U.S. Supreme Court's orders that Hawkins be admitted without further delay. By 1958, Hawkins withdrew his application to UFCL in exchange for an agreement that other African Americans would at last be permitted to enroll.

The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Committee on Racial Discrimination typified the landscape of opportunity in the 1950s . In 1955, the Committee on Racial Discrimination proposed a rule requiring that law schools keep their doors open to African Americans or have their ALS membership revoked. The AALS Committee's proposal was not approved because it failed to gain the endorsement of two-thirds of member law schools. After the proposal was rejected, AALS president Maurice Van Hecke gave an annual address in which he stated:

[T]he adoption by the Association of any coercive measures would delay further racial integration in the schools by aggravating present resentment and resistance.

The wisest course, I believe, is for the Association to continue to serve in the role of mediator, keeping the situation fluid and in the realm of discussion and making suggestions, from time to time, that will encourage the several schools to work out their own problems as conditions change.

National data, discussed shortly, indicate that the legal education establishment's "wisest course" in fact meant that conditions did not change and that students of color made no significant inroads until the late 1960s.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, aspiring minority attorneys outside the South did not confront Jim Crow segregation, yet the barriers of racial and ethnic exclusion in legal education were nonetheless quite formidable. While 1950s national law school enrollment figures broken down by race and ethnicity are unavailable due to poor data collection, it is safe to conclude that American law schools were approximately 99% White during this period. For example, there were an estimated 1450 African American attorneys in 1950 out of a total of 221,605 lawyers, meaning that African Americans were 0.65% of the legal profession. In 1960, there were 2180 African American attorneys out of a total of 285,933 lawyers, or 0.76% of the profession. Erwin Smigel, author of a major 1964 study of Wall Street lawyers, reported, "In the year and a half that was spent interviewing, I heard of only three Negroes who had been hired by large law firms. Two of these were women who did not meet the client." Likewise, 1963 study of firm lawyers and solo practitioners in Detroit found that all 206 of the attorneys surveyed were White. Law firm practitioners in this Detroit study consisted primarily of Northern European Protestants who had attended elite schools like Yale, Harvard, and Michigan.

Comprehensive data on African American law school enrollment are also difficult to come by for much of the 1960s. The ABA and other national organizations did not collect data on Latino, American Indian, and Asian Pacific American students until 1969. In 1965, the AALS Committee on Minority Groups, in the most comprehensive effort up to that point, surveyed ABA-accredited law schools about minority enrollment figures. The AALS Committee found that most law schools could not provide information on either Latin American or Puerto Rican students for two reasons: (1) there was confusion among deans over what these terms meant; and (2) most schools simply had no idea of the past or present enrollment levels of these groups. Even after reluctantly restricting the focus of their study to African Americans, the AALS Committee had to rely on help from faculty members, students, and personal visits to law schools, because some uncooperative deans would not provide the requisite data. The Committee eventually estimated that there were a total of 701 African American law students in the 1964-1965 academic year (combining first, second, and third year students), with 267 at six predominantly Black law schools, including 165 at Howard. Thus, African Americans were about 1.3% of national law school enrollments and less than 1.0% of enrollments excluding these six schools. Prior to 1968, there were about 200 African Americans graduating from law school annually.

.S. Census data indicate that between 1960 and 1970, the number of African American attorneys grew by 76% (from 2180 to 3845), while the total number of American lawyers grew by 24% during that span. Not surprisingly, the shortage of Black attorneys was most severe in the South. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia had a combined total of 393 African American lawyers in 1970, even though the total Black population of these states was over 8.8 million at that time. In 1970, the number of African American lawyers in states outside the South with Black populations over one million were as follows: 373 in California, 667 in Illinois, 650 in New York, and 141 in Pennsylvania. A committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association reported in 1970:

The scarcity of Black lawyers in Pennsylvania--just 130 for a Black population of nearly 1,000,000 persons--is scandalous to a Commonwealth professing to serve all its people. This shortage of Black lawyers has undeniably decreased the effectiveness of the Black community in seeking to achieve equality of opportunity through traditional legal channels. And while the Black community is principally harmed by what has amounted to the total exclusion of Blacks from the Pennsylvania Bar, the entire Commonwealth and nation suffer irreparable harm.

In the 1960s, the scarcity of American Indian and Latino attorneys and law students was startling. In 1968, there were fewer than twenty-five American Indian attorneys nationwide, even though the American Indian population at that time was well over a half-million. Moreover, through the late 1960s, no American Indians had ever graduated from law school in Arizona, New Mexico, or Utah--nor had any American Indians ever practiced law in Arizona or New Mexico--though these three states had an American Indian population of over 135,000 at that time and had substantial legal needs associated with the management of tribal holdings. Similarly, only three Chicanos graduated from "major" California law schools in 1969, and it was estimated that less than .006% of all American law students enrolled in 1969 belonged to the "amorphous category entitled Spanish American, which include[d] all Spanish surnames and Spanish speaking groups."

A decade after Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Movement was at its height, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was just approved by Congress and signed into law by President Johnson. Yet at this time, American law schools, especially elite schools, were still almost completely segregated. In fact, when Erwin Griswold, the dean at Harvard Law School and later the U.S. Solicitor General, testified before a Senate Committee that national registration and voting statistics proved discrimination and the need for the voting rights bill, he was embarrassed by a Southern segregationist senator who wanted Griswold to concede that application of the same logic compelled the conclusion that Harvard must be discriminating against African Americans since the Law School's African American enrollment numbers were substantially below the national average. As indicated in Table 1 and Chart 1, in the early 1960s at schools like Boalt Hall, Michigan, and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the "inexorable zero" routinely characterized African American enrollment patterns. In the fall of 1965, Boalt, Michigan, New York University (NYU), and UCLA had a combined total of four African Americans out of 4843 students, which, shockingly, is one fewer than the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), where the law school begrudgingly enrolled five Blacks in 1965 to avoid jeopardizing a substantial grant from the Ford Foundation. Similarly, between 1948 and 1968, the University of Texas enrolled a total of 8018 White first-year law students and only 37 African Americans. Between 1956 and 1967, there were between zero and two African American enrollments at UTLS annually.

TABLE 1: AFRICAN AMERICAN FIRST-YEAR ENROLLMENTS AT FOUR ELITE LAW SCHOOLS, 1963-1971 (Ommited)

 


Legal Education Before Affirmative Action
The Rise of Affirmative Action
The Rise of the LSAT
Stalled Progress
The Fall of Affirmative Action
Contemporary Admission Environment

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TWLS
2005 TWLS
01 Introduction
02 Discrimination
03 Top Ten
04 National
05 Regional
06 State
07 Isolation
08 Schools

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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