'Keep 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

36 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2013 Last revised: 4 Aug 2020

See all articles by Thomas D. Russell

Thomas D. Russell

University of Florida Levin College of Law; University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Date Written: March 22, 2010


The draft of this paper created controversy, garnered a great deal of media interest, and led the Regents of The University of Texas to remove a Klansman's name from a UT dormitory.

Two amicus briefs to the United States Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas cite the published article, which appeared in the South Texas Law Review. These are the Brief of the Advancement Project and the Brief of the Black Student Alliance at the University of Texas at Austin, the Black Ex-Students of Texas, Inc., and the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.

The article appears as part of a mini-symposium with commentary by Professor Al Brophy (UNC), Professor Leslie Harris (UNC), Dean José Roberto Juárez Jr. (Denver), and Mr. Lee Daniels (NAACP Legal Defense Fund).

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.

Keywords: Fisher v. University of Texas, Affirmative Action, Ku Klux Klan, Standardizes Testing, Segregation, Supreme Court, Russell, Legal History, Race, NAACP

Suggested Citation

Russell, Thomas David, 'Keep 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 (March 22, 2010). South Texas Law Review, Vol. 52, No. 1, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2240973

Thomas David Russell (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

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