Through correspondence, applications, pamphlets, and other materials, this collection documents the integration of black students into the University of Houston. The bulk of the 214 items are from the late 1950s and early 1960s, with some dated as early as 1945 and as late as 1969. The collection includes selections from the UH President’s Office Records and highlights correspondence from Presidents Clanton C. Williams, A.D. Bruce, and Phillip G. Hoffman.
UH did not admit its first black student until the early 1960s. A private college during the 1950s and ‘60s, UH was not held to the standards of Sweatt v. Painter, which forced the University of Texas to admit a black student to its law school in 1950. Documents in the collection show black students applying to UH but being referred to nearby Texas Southern University. Phillip G. Hoffman, UH President from 1961-1977, realized that transforming UH from a private to a public school would have great financial benefits for the university and would also hold them to the legal standards of state schools. A memo in the collection from the Registrar Ramon A. Vitulli to Hoffman dated January 15, 1962, states that in 1961 the office of admissions received 175 inquiries by “negroes” in person or by phone and 33 rejection letters were sent through the mail. The registrar adds, “Based on the assumption that as a fully State supported institution the University will be required to admit qualified Negroes in the fall of 1963 and thereafter, I recommend that we admit qualified Negroes in the fall of 1962 or before.” By March 1963, the University had twenty African American students and was fully desegregated.
To avoid the unrest occurring around desegregation at other schools, Hoffman drew together community businessmen and the media to integrate the university relatively quietly. UH became a state funded university in 1963, and in 1964, it became the first major university in the South to desegregate its intercollegiate sports program. Guy Lewis recruited the school's first black athletes, including Don Chaney and future Hall-of-Famer Elvin Hayes, transforming both the basketball program and the entire campus.
The items do not present themselves in the digital collection in the same order that they do in the physical collection. Newspaper clippings were not scanned because of copyright issues. Whenever possible, materials that were originally attached were scanned together. To see the collection in its entirety and in its original order, we encourage you to visit UH Special Collections.