The ‘Geier’ Timeline

The ‘Geier’ Case and the Desegregation of Tennessee Higher Education

During the 1960s on college campuses across the country and in Tennessee, African-Americans were demanding social justice and advocating for civil rights on the streets and in the courts. History is changed by persons willing to challenge injustice. In this instance, the challenge was brought by a young woman and her lawyer intent on securing educational opportunity for African-Americans in Tennessee’s public colleges and universities. Little could they have imagined that their journey would take 38 years and in its course change public higher education not only in Tennessee but throughout the southern United States.

Read the full story.

1870Tennessee state constitution mandates racial segregation in state colleges and universities.
1901Tennessee criminalizes the integration of its public and private colleges.
1912Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State Normal School for Negroes is established.
1927Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State Normal School for Negroes becomes Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State College.
1940Tennessee college and university enrollment is less than 26,000.
1944The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the G.I. Bill, begins providing money for veterans’ education.
1947University of Tennessee Nashville established.
1950Tennessee college and university enrollment at almost 40,000.
1960Tennessee college and university enrollment now more than 60,000.
1960The state abolishes prohibition against blacks at traditionally white institutions (TWIs).
1968Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State College becomes Tennessee State University.
1968Rita Sanders GeierRita Sanders Geier and George Barrett file federal lawsuit to thwart expansion of UT Nashville.
1969Tennessee files first desegregation plan in April.
1970By April, TWIs show modest progress but Judge Gray concludes there’s no prospect of success at TSU.
1970State ordered to submit new desegregation plan by 1972.
1972State’s new plan is a restatement of earlier plan.
1972Geier plaintiffs propose merger between TSU and UTN.
1972-77Gray refuses to order merger.

Judge Frank Gray orders merger by July 1980.

1978Judge Wiseman inherits case from Gray in August.
1983Data shows that merger is not working.
1984Parties negotiate first settlement agreement.
1984-92Parties attempt to implement first settlement agreement.
1990TSU students stage hunger strike to protest conditions at school
1990Gov. McWherter starts $127 million building and renovation plan.
1992Supreme Court orders state to get rid of vestiges of segregation.
1992-99State attempts unsuccessfully to comply with 1992 Supreme Court order through implementation of first settlement agreement.
1999Judge Carlos GonzálezCarlos González appointed to mediate.
2001Consent decree approved on Jan 4 and González appointed court monitor.
2006Wiseman grants uncontested final order of dismissal.


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