By: Bryce Danielle Bradley
April 12, 2023
In February, Professor Briana Lynn Rosenbaum discussed her forthcoming Tennessee Law Review article, “Deflect, Delay, Deny: A Case Study of Segregation by Law School Faculty Before Brown v. Board of Education.” In the article, Professor Rosenbaum explains the history of segregation at the University of Tennessee College of Law, including the faculty and staff’s role in furthering segregation efforts within the admissions process.
Professor Rosenbaum explains that pre-Brown v. Board of Education, numerous faculty members of UT Law worked to delay desegregation efforts on campus. In her research, Professor Rosenbaum uncovered records that provide evidence of concrete discriminatory actions by UT Law faculty. The article recognizes the successful and unsuccessful attempts by black students to earn a degree from UT Law. These accounts include the ones of Lincoln A. Blakeney and R.B.J. Cambelle. Blakeney enrolled in UT Law and dropped out shortly after, and Cambelle became the first black student to graduate from UT Law in 1956. However, the story of Rudolph Valentino McKamey, a Black man who sought admission to UT Law in June 1948, is the focal point of the article. McKamey submitted his application to UT Law six years before Brown v. Board of Education. Professor Rosenbaum shines a light on the difficulties Mr. McKamey faced during his application process due to the prejudicial practices of the law school faculty. As discussed in the article, the UT Law faculty disguised their actions as neutral policies to resist desegregation.
As a black law student, I know the obstacles that stand in the way of hopeful, diverse law students. We are often told to push past obstacles and overcome adversity. The same was said to our ancestors and generations of diverse lawyers who came before us. However, the underlying systemic oppression that black law students faced during Blakeney, Cambelle, and McKamey’s time still generates fear and anxiety in black students today. Prejudice camouflaged behind neutrality has damaged the social and economic progression of the black community for decades. At the end of Professor Rosenbaum’s discussion, she opened the floor for questions from the audience. Several audience members’ questions communicated their curiosity about what happened to the hundreds of other law students that were denied admission to law schools for similar reasons. Professor Rosenbaum explained that the efforts to deny black students were secretive, which makes it difficult to trace the details of most accusations.
I commend Professor Rosenbaum for unmasking the truths behind what black students have been told are simply myths. I am also elated at the recognition of those who were brave and bold enough to try to push through the barriers and achieve their dreams. Without these individuals, I would not be able to walk the halls of UT Law and obtain a law degree.
Please look for Professor Rosenbaum’s article to be published in the Tennessee Law Review and her tour discussing her article at colleges nationwide.
 Briana Lynn Rosenbaum, Deflect, Delay, Deny: A Case Study of Segregation by Law School Faculty Before Brown v. Board of Education, 88 Tenn. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2022) (manuscript at 1) (on file with author).
 Id. at 3.
 Id. at 18.
 Id. at 2.
 Id. at 3.
 Id. at 4.
 Id. at 8.