JMRL unveils new historical marker of Swanson vs. UVA case

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 6:20 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A new historical marker at the old courthouse, now the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, is commemorating the landmark lawsuit of Swanson versus University of Virginia in Charlottesville. It set a precedent for desegregation in American education.

“It’s a great recognition of what Uncle Greg did,” Jeffery Powell said.

Powell’s uncle was Gregory Swanson, the man in the landmark case against the University of Virginia.

“Swanson was admitted to the university law school by the law school faculty, but then denied admission based on his race by the Board of Visitors. So he subsequently sued and the NAACP legal team led by Thurgood Marshall argued the case in the historic courtroom upstairs here and won,” Director of the Jefferson Madison Regional Library David Plunkett said.

The marker is to help remind people about a legal case that paved the way for a movement.

“This is really part of a larger strategy from the NAACP to fight segregation of higher institution,” Plunkett said.

The old courthouse where the case was heard is now the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library.

“When I’ve come to the Central Library for meetings, they’ve often taken place in the Swanson Courtroom up on the second floor, but a lot of people have not been aware of that. So by having this prominent historic marker right here at the intersection of two major streets in Charlottesville, it will be an eye catcher,” Chair of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors Donna Price said.

Although Thursday, May 19, was a day of celebration, Powell says it was not easy for his uncle. He says Swanson never spoke about the case or his time at the University of Virginia School of law.

“It was not a very pleasant experience for he or other African-Americans who tried to matriculate at University of Virginia, or any majority school,” Powell said.

The marker is one step to help educate people on desegregation in education.

“This is one of our ways to rewrite that narrative, the lost and wrong narrative of the Southern cause and really put hatred and discrimination where it belongs, which is in the dustbin of history,” Price said.

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