Listen to UNION by Bessie Jones and Group B.
George W. McLaurin had long before earned his master's degree and in 1948 applied to the graduate school of the University of Oklahoma to earn his doctorate in education.
But there was a catch, as McLaurin discovered soon after returning to the state court in November to demand and win immediate admission to the state university. He became a fully matriculated graduate student of the University of Oklahoma, all right, but in accordance with the legislature's hurry-up revision of the state laws, all such instruction of colored students was to be done "on a segregated basis" within the university. And so sixty-eight-year-old
George McLaurin was made to sit at a desk by himself in an anteroom outside the regular classrooms where his coursework was given.
Before McLaurin was heard by the Justices in April 1950, Oklahoma modified the ordeal it had imposed on its least-likely-to-succeed student. McLaurin was now admitted to the classroom with white students. But his seat was surrounded by a railing marked "Reserved for Colored." Nauseated by the spectacle, white students tore the sign down until officials settled for assigning McLaurin to an unmarked row set aside for him and any other colored student who might enroll in quest of similar humiliation. They also let McLaurin onto the main floor of the library, but restricted him to his own table. And they let him eat in the cafeteria at the same time as whites, but still at his own place, which became endearingly known to McLaurin and his sympathizers as "The Jug." Such restrictions, Oklahoma contended in its brief to the Court, were merely nominal. They were necessary if the university was to conform to the state's separate-but-equal laws.
Photo: Shoreditch mural (3).