McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education: The Court’s Ruling
On further review, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a brief opinion, reversed in favor of McLaurin. In writing for the unanimous court, Chief Justice Fred Vinson stated,
Those who will come under [McLaurin’s] guidance and influence must be directly affected by the education he receives. Their own education and development will necessarily suffer to the extent that his training is unequal to that of his classmates. Stateimposed restrictions which produce such inequalities cannot be sustained. (p. 641)
In buttressing the Court’s analysis, he added that the conditions under which [McLaurin] is required to receive his education deprive him of his personal and present right to the equal protection of the laws. . . . We hold that under these circumstances the Fourteenth Amendment precludes differences in treatment by the state based upon race. [McLaurin], having been admitted to a state-supported graduate school, must receive the same treatment at the hands of the state as students of other races. (p. 641)
Viewed together, McLaurin and Sweatt demonstrated that there were intangible social aspects to education that could never be equal in segregated facilities. Further, these victories in higher education bolstered efforts to focus attention on the inequalities of segregated elementary and secondary public schools. Needless to say, McLaurin and Sweatt foreshadowed the legal strategy and judicial analysis that would become well known in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954).