Publication Date

January 2004

Journal or Book Title

Beaumont [Texas] History Conference


The desegregation of Lamar State College of Technology in Beaumont was marked by racial terror. The clash at Lamar climaxed a protracted antidiscrimination campaign that developed during the Second World War, escalated in 1949 when Lamar grew from a locally supported junior college to a state-supported senior college, and turned into a court battle in the wake of the victorious 1950 Supreme Court decision in Sweatt v. Painter which opened certain graduate and professional school programs at the University of Texas to African Americans. While in the book Advancing Democracy my focus is on documenting Lamar’s desegregation and situating the Beaumont-based struggle for access and equity in higher education in a larger statewide and national context, in this presentation I discuss one particular aspect in greater detail. Following the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, racial terror was deployed in response to efforts to desegregate postsecondary institutions in various parts of Texas. Terrorist activity and mob violence was successful in blocking efforts in Kilgore and Texarkana, as well as in stemming the organization of lawsuits in other areas, particularly in East Texas. Beaumont, however, was a different story altogether. The experience there calls into question the so-called Backlash Thesis.

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