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Sun, 09.16.1894

George McLaurin, Educator born

George McLaurin

*George W. McLaurin was born on this date in 1894.  He was a Black educator.  

His family moved to Oklahoma in 1910, and he received his BA from Langston University.  After marriage, he and his wife Peninah McLaurin sent their children out of state when they were 13 to complete their educations.  McLaurin received his master's degree from the University of Kansas and was a professor at Langston University.  When he applied to the University of Oklahoma, he was turned down because he was Black, and he sued.  

On September 29, 1948, a Federal court ruled that the University of Oklahoma's denial to admit McLaurin was unconstitutional. President George Lynn Cross arranged for George McLaurin's classes to be held in classrooms with an anteroom to comply with segregation laws. This way, McLaurin could sit away from the white students while still attending all his classes. Other special accommodations created to continue segregation include special seating areas at the cafeteria, sporting events, and separate restroom facilities. In retaliation for these conditions, McLaurin filed a suit stating that these conditions deprived him of equality.

The District Court was not in agreement with his argument and denied his motion for the reason that racial segregation is a "deeply rooted social policy of the State of Oklahoma."  McLaurin brought his case up again, but he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court this time. This would begin the timeline of the McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education suit.  McLaurin argued that the Fourteenth Amendment was being violated by their treatment. It was not until 1950 that the Supreme Court ruled that the treatment must be equal between white and Black students.

Mclaurin v Oklahoma State Regents was an important case in history because it was one of the first cases that attempted to combat the "separate but equal" provision in the Plessy v Ferguson case.  McLaurin v Oklahoma showed how the "separate but equal" provision can still be manipulated to discriminate against individuals based on race. In 1950 a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that McLaurin had not received equal treatment as required by the Constitution.

Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Frederick M. Vinson wrote that McLaurin was "handicapped in his pursuit of effective graduate instruction. Such restrictions impair and inhibit his ability to study, engage in discussion and exchange views with other students, and in general to learn his professions."   At Oklahoma University, there is a gathering named after George A. McLaurin on the campus called The George McLaurin Male Leadership Conference. The conference mainly intends to recruit first-generation college students, particularly those within minority groups.  George McLaurin died on September 4, 1968. 

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