Balkinization  

Friday, July 16, 2010

Scholarly Impact

Mary L. Dudziak

The impact of an SSRN paper is usually measured by downloads, but Tom Russell, legal historian at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, has given us a new measure. In March 2010, Tom posted an SSRN paper: `Keep the Negroes Out of Most Classes Where There Are a Large Number of Girls': The Unseen Power of the Ku Klux Klan and Standardized Testing at The University of Texas, 1899-1999. The paper, based in part on research in Texas archives, details the way, in the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education, the University of Texas named one of its dormitories after an unrepentant Ku Klux Klansman, William Stewart Simkins. The paper was picked up in the media, and sparked a student campaign, ultimately leading the Presdent of the universtiy to recommend to the Regents that the dorm name should be changed. Yesterday the University of Texas Board of Regents voted in favor of changing the name.

More details and links are here and here. Tom's SSRN abstract is below the fold.

The paper's title is a quotation from The University of Texas registrar nine days after the decision in Brown v. Board of Education. This paper examines 20th-century techniques of racial domination at The University of Texas by crosscutting two narratives.
The first narrative that the paper presents is one of the development of bureaucratic or institutional forms of racial exclusion. The paper describes the university's efforts to limit the application of the Brown v. Board of Education.

In the immediate years after the United States Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, The University of Texas developed and instituted entrance exams that university officials knew would exclude a disproportionate number of African-American applicants. Publicly, the university presented the testing as race-neutral. The university stalled post-Brown integration until the exclusionary admissions testing was in place.

An explicit concern of the university in seeking to exclude African-American students during the 1950s was a racialized sexual concern about the university's white women.

The second narrative is the story of William Stewart Simkins, a law professor at The University of Texas from 1899 to 1929. Professor Simkins helped to organize the Ku Klux Klan in Florida at the conclusion of the American Civil War, and he advocated his Klan past to Texas students.

Like the university registrar during the 1950s, Professor Simkins was explicitly concerned with the sexual defense of white women. Relying upon the analysis of historian Grace Elizabeth Hale, the paper links Professor Simkins's advocacy of the Klan to the early 20th-century history of lynching and white supremacist violence.

During the 1950s, the memory and history of Professor Simkins supported the university's resistance to integration. As the university faced pressure to admit African-American students, the university's faculty council voted to name a dormitory after the Klansman and law professor. The dormitory carries his name to the present day. During this time period, alumni also presented the law school with a portrait of Professor Simkins. Portraits and a bust of Professor Simkins occupied prominent positions within the law school through the 1990s.

The sources for the paper are drawn largely from primary materials of the university's archives, including the papers of the university's Board of Regents, Chancellor, President, and faculty committees. The author completed this research during the 1990s while a member of The University of Texas School of Law faculty.
You can download the paper here.

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