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  • Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights:Awareness to Action: The African American Male Experience
  • Joseph Kitchen

The 26th annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights was held in February 2012 at the University of Texas at Austin. The symposium is born of the efforts of a committed team of faculty, students, and staff in recognition of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Sweatt v. Painter and the subsequent barrier-breaking admission of Heman Sweatt to the university, the first African American student admitted to the University of Texas Law School. The case began when Sweatt was denied admission on the basis of his race in 1946. Ultimately the court's ruling on the matter challenged the prevailing "separate but equal" doctrine of racial segregation and, in turn, led the way toward the desegregation of public education institutions, along with a series of subsequent Supreme Court cases.1

The 2012 symposium's opening events included several panel discussions, which drew scholars and community leaders from across the country to speak on the topic of "Advancing Solutions for Men of Color in Higher Education and the Crisis Facing America." The symposium continued the next month with a third dialogue and panel event titled, "Awareness to Action: The African American Male Experience." The audio clip in this issue of Spectrum features the dialogue from this panel, which includes speakers Gregory Vincent, James L. Moore, III, and Leonard Moore.

Gregory Vincent, vice president of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at UT Austin, provided the opening remarks, recounting the powerful influence of the Sweatt family on education, and states that the panel will offer solutions to the issues facing Black males in education. He continues by speaking on the state of educational attainment in terms of the intersection of race and gender, social justice issues, student health for Black males, as well as the influence of the Sweatt and Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court rulings. Acknowledging recent national news headlines on race matters and studies demonstrating the pervasive educational disparities between White and Black students, the speakers collectively acknowledge the need to address the experiences [End Page 129] of African American males. Vincent concludes by highlighting research findings that point to the key educational experiences that appear to foster success among African American male students in particular.

Vincent is joined by Leonard Moore and James L. Moore, III, who elaborate with lively anecdotes, expert opinions, and solid research findings. Noting the low placement of African American males across a broad range of academic indicators at universities, the panel members demand greater focus on the issues faced by these students, specifically African American male retention, social integration, Black masculinity, educational attainment, achievement gaps, and graduation. This discussion aims to illuminate these problems and to offer potential pathways for addressing educational impediments for African American males. In addition, the panel also touched on matters of national security, economic vitality, and citizenship as key elements of the conversation on African American male success in education. The speakers continued by offering a personal look inside what sparked their interests in this topic, what drives their research, and what programming they have found successful for African American male educational success. The panel concluded by tasking universities and policymakers to address the educational issues faced by African American male students in an increasingly diverse society, saying they need to have the will to follow through and to work together to put appropriate support systems in place to help them succeed.


Dr. Gregory Vincent, vice president of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. James L. Moore, III, Associate Provost of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male, and professor in the School of Physical Activity and Educational Services at The Ohio State University.

Dr. Leonard Moore, associate vice president of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and professor in the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin.


1. Visit for more information on the history of the symposium. [End Page 130]




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