Dr Herman A. Barnett, Black Civil Rights Activists, and the Desegregation of The University of Texas Medical Branch in 1949: "We Ought to Go in Texas and I Don't Mean to a Segregated Medical School"

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



JAMA internal medicine




In May 1949, Herman A. Barnett III, a 23-year-old Black veteran, applied to The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston. His application occurred in the wake of Black student protests against the segregationist policies of The University of Texas and of judicial victories by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to eradicate racial inequalities in state-financed graduate and professional education. Barnett's application prompted the state to fund a medical school at the Texas State University for Negroes, the only time a state ever attempted to thwart desegregation by financing a separate Black medical school. Barnett was clearly qualified for admission to UTMB, and if the school rejected him, he had agreed to be a plaintiff in an NAACP lawsuit. Legal action was not necessary, however. In August 1949 Barnett was accepted into UTMB, thereby becoming the second African American person to desegregate a Southern medical school. Barnett was technically admitted on a contract basis as a student at the Texas State University for Negroes in Houston and was to have transferred there later. The Black medical school was never built and Barnett graduated from UTMB in 1953. This review analyzes the role that Barnett and Black civil rights activists played in the history of medical education in the US and the dismantlement of racially exclusionary policies in medical schools.


Health Policy and Management