The First Black Students Admitted to 15 Prestigious U.S. Universities, and Their Stories Image via UVA Law

5. Gregory Swanson

Year: 1950
School: University of Virginia

A lawsuit allowed 25-year-old Gregory Swanson to attend the University of Virginia in 1950, the first black student at an all-white school. The Howard University graduate had already been admitted to the Virginia Bar and was a practicing lawyer by the time he applied to UVA's law program. After university officials voted unanimously that Swanson be admitted (he boasted a stellar academic record), the state Board of Visitors rejected his application on the basis of a state provision against integrated schools.

A three-judge panel then ordered that Swanson be admitted to the school, in a case that lasted less than thirty minutes. Judges cited the lack of a similar tax-funded programs from black students. But once Swanson arrived to campus, there was little celebration to be had.

He enrolled in the university's law school in 1950, but wasn't allowed to live on the school's grounds. He was barred from social activities, prohibited from attending school dances, and essentially isolated from the rest of the student body. So in July 1951, after finishing his first year, Swanson withdrew from the university. He described "an overwhelming climate of racial hostility and harassment." Justice is hard to find sometimes, even if you're a lawyer. And especially if you're a black lawyer in Virginia mid-20th century.

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