Civil Rights in Burnt Orange | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

This LBJ School-based project is an oral history of race relations at The University of Texas at Austin and the wider city of Austin and state of Texas.

"Civil Rights in Burnt Orange" is an oral history and policy project that chronicles UT and the city of Austin's transition from Jim Crow to racial integration. Through digitally filmed oral histories, "Civil Rights in Burnt Orange" focuses on the civil rights movement's impact on the 40 Acres. Particular attention is paid to the transformation of UT athletes, student-community relations and campus climate since the civil rights era. Watch its first film.

The state of Texas played an outsized, if still understudied, role in the nation's journey toward racial justice. UT helped to indelibly shape the nation's progress on civil rights and this story has yet to be fully told. "Civil Rights in Burnt Orange" documents this story panoramically, drawing from the stories and voices of the multicultural and multiracial participants who not only helped change the nation, but just as importantly changed the 40 Acres and the wide Austin community.


Civil Rights in Burnt Orange

The project's first film features some of the first black students to attend UT after desegregation reflect, along with current UT students, on the gains they made toward equal opportunity and the work yet to be done.

Directed by Roosevelt Neely (MPAff '18), the film is a joint project for UT's Radio-Television-Film advanced documentary class and the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy (CSRD).


A team of CSRD Student Fellows has been identifying, meeting and interviewing notable alumni, ordinary citizens and political, social and cultural figures to offer a unique window onto the living history that comprises parts of the narrative that details the transformation this area.

Thousands of Americans of all races who lived through the era of segregation are growing older, and we run the risk of eventually losing their voices forever. Documenting their experiences will provide an invaluable repository for how UT views and understands its own history, as well as indicate the ways in which it can ensure that UT's future is dedicated to a comprehensive and inclusive vision that promotes racial integration, institutional and city-wide diversity, and social justice.

UT's long history of racial apartheid reflected Jim Crow's larger role in shaping both the city of Austin and the state of Texas. Racial integration of the student body, athletic teams, faculty and staff transformed the university, yet challenges remain. Documenting this evolution serves as an act of public history that has important policy implications for contemporary efforts toward diversity, inclusion and racial equality.

Goal: "Civil Rights in Burnt Orange" will produce a multimedia digital archive, a website and programming that will be organized university- city- and statewide. UT's story includes our impact at the local, regional, national and global levels, making "what happens here changes the world" an apt motto. We would add that what has already happened here — at UT, in the city of Austin and in the state of Texas — helped fundamentally transform American democracy and race relations.

Partnerships: The CSRD envisions partnering with the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the Briscoe Center for American History and other university and city entities that would help make this project a lasting tribute to UT, its students and its role in Austin and in Texas.