339 U.S. 637 (1950), 34, McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

Docket Nº:No. 34
Citation:339 U.S. 637, 70 S.Ct. 851, 94 L.Ed. 1149
Party Name:McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education
Case Date:June 05, 1950
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 637

339 U.S. 637 (1950)

70 S.Ct. 851, 94 L.Ed. 1149



Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

No. 34

United States Supreme Court

June 5, 1950

Argued April 3-4, 1950




Appellant, a Negro citizen of Oklahoma possessing a master's degree, was admitted to the Graduate School of the state supported University of Oklahoma as a candidate for a doctorate in education and was permitted to use the same classroom, library and cafeteria as white students. Pursuant to a requirement of state law that the instruction of Negroes in institutions of higher education be "upon a segregated basis," however, he was assigned to a seat in the classroom in a row specified for Negro students, was assigned to a special table in the library, and, although permitted to eat in the cafeteria at the same time as other students, was assigned to a special table there.

Held: the conditions under which appellant is required to receive his education deprive him of his personal and present right to the equal protection of the laws, and the Fourteenth Amendment precludes such differences in treatment by the State based upon race. Pp. 638-642.

(a) The restrictions imposed upon appellant impair and inhibit his ability to study, to engage in discussions and exchange views with other students, and, in general, to learn his profession. Pp. 640-641.

(b) That appellant may still be set apart by his fellow students and may be in no better position when these restrictions are removed is irrelevant, for there is a constitutional difference between restrictions imposed by the State which prohibit the intellectual commingling of students and the refusal of students to commingle where the State presents no such bar. P. 641.

(c) Having been admitted to a state supported graduate school, appellant must receive the same treatment at the hands of the State as students of other races. P. 642.

87 F.Supp. 528 reversed.

The proceedings below are stated in the opinion. The judgment below is reversed, p. 642.

Page 638

VINSON, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE VINSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case, we are faced with the question whether a state may, after admitting a student to graduate instruction in its state university, afford him different treatment from other students solely because of his race. We decide only this issue; see Sweatt v. Painter, ante, p. 629.

Appellant is a Negro citizen of Oklahoma. Possessing a Master's degree, he applied for admission to the University of Oklahoma in order to pursue studies and courses leading to a Doctorate in Education. At that time, his application was denied, solely because of his race. The school authorities were required to exclude him by the Oklahoma statutes, 70 Okl.Stat. (1941) §§ 455, 456, 457, which made it a misdemeanor to maintain or operate, teach or attend a school at which both whites and Negroes are enrolled or taught. Appellant filed a complaint requesting injunctive relief, alleging that the action of the school authorities and the statutes upon which their action was based were unconstitutional and deprived him

Page 639

of the equal protection of the laws. Citing our decisions in Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 (1938), and Sipuel v. Board of Regents, 332 U.S. 631 (1948), a statutory three-judge District Court held, 87 F.Supp. 526, that the State had a constitutional duty to provide him with the education he sought as soon as it provided that education for applicants of any other group. It further held that, to the extent the Oklahoma statutes denied him admission, they were unconstitutional and void. On the assumption, however, that the State would follow the constitutional mandate, the court refused to grant the injunction, retaining jurisdiction of the cause with full power to issue any necessary and proper orders to secure McLaurin the equal protection of the laws.

Following this decision, the Oklahoma legislature amended these statutes...

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