McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637; 70 S. Ct. 851; 96 L.Ed. 1149 (1950)

Facts—Mr. G. W. McLaurin, an African American, applied to the University of Oklahoma to pursue studies leading to a doctorate in education. After a three-judge District Court held that the state had a constitutional duty to provide him with the education he sought, the Oklahoma legislature required that he be educated on a segregated basis. McLaurin was required to sit at a desk in an anteroom adjoining the classroom, to sit at a designated desk on the mezzanine floor of the library, not to use the desks in the regular reading room, and to eat at a different time in the school cafeteria. McLaurin filed a motion to have these conditions removed, which the lower court rejected.

Question—Can a state university, after admitting a student to graduate instruction, afford him different treatment from the other students solely because of his race?


ReasonsC.J. Vinson (9–0). By setting McLaurin apart from the other students, the state hindered his pursuit of effective graduate study. “There is a vast difference—a Constitutional difference—between restrictions imposed by the state which prohibit the intellectual commingling of students and the refusal of individuals to commingle where the state presents no such bar.” The conditions under which this appellant was forced to study deprived him of his personal and present right to equal protection of the laws.

NoteMcLaurin and Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950) were handed down the same day. Both cases helped erode the “separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson.

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