Written by Nancy Baker Jones
Read by Debra Winegarten
Best known for helping to integrate the University of Texas at Austin, Lulu Belle Madison was born in 1900 in East Texas, one of 12 children. Her father had been a slave. In 1928, she graduated from Prairie View College and married Julius White, a Houston nightclub owner with a personality as provocative as her own. Although Jim Crow laws and the KKK made Houston one of the most segregated and racially terrorized cities in Texas, the Black community resisted, using class-action lawsuits by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Lulu White joined the Houston chapter, becoming its first female executive secretary.
Aware of her identity as both Black and female, she cultivated an influential network of women as well as men and refused to mitigate her rhetoric or behavior. Despite being called “unladylike” and a Communist, she confronted segregation directly, trying on clothes in white department stores, attending public performances just for whites, and demanding—successfully—that signs reading “White” and “Colored” be removed from a local soda fountain. She demanded equal salaries for Black teachers, fought for voting rights, and urged women to run for office.
In 1945, she persuaded Heman Marion Sweatt to be the plaintiff for the NAACP’s suit to integrate the UT law school. The Supreme Court’s decision in his favor ended the concept of “separate but equal.” In 1946, she became a state and regional NAACP official. She died of heart disease in 1957.
Pitre, Merline. In Struggle Against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP, 1900-1957. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999.
Audio Source Information
Our project, "Texas Women's History Moments," received the 2012 National Council on Public History Outstanding Public History Award and the American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Award. The audio clips were broadcast on KUT radio from 2011-2016 during Women’s History Month.