Commemorating the Brown Decision

April 07, 2004 3 min read
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Here is a sampling of events marking the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the May 17, 1954, U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning racial segregation in public schools.

  • April 23Black, White and Brown: The School Desegregation Case in Retrospect is published by the Supreme Court Historical Society and Congressional Quarterly Press, with a preface by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. In this collection of essays, scholars examine the cases that eroded the “separate but equal” doctrine laid down by the high court in 1896, the challenge of enforcing Brown, and changes over time in views of Brown. Publisher’s Web site:
  • April 29 — The American Bar Association’s Brown Commission hosts a panel discussion at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, moderated by Harvard University law professor Charles Ogletree, exploring the legal, ethical, and public-policy issues emanating from the decision. ABA Web site: y lvania.html.
  • May 14-17 — The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, whose litigators argued the Brown case before the Supreme Court, holds several events to commemorate the anniversary.

A three-day “Summit of the States” will be held May 14-16 in Topeka, Kan., where participants will discuss states’ plans to reach educational equity. On May 17, NAACP officials will join Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and leaders of the Brown Foundation in a commemorative rally on the steps of the state Capitol in Topeka.

Also on May 17, the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Howard University will host an awards gala in Washington honoring people and groups that played significant roles in the Brown decision. NAACP Web site:

  • May 15 — New York and New Jersey high school students who have been participating in a two-year research project on race and persistent inequality in schools will perform “Echoes of Brown: 50 Years Later.” The New York City invitation-only performance combines dance and poetry with the students’ videotaped discussions with civil rights pioneers. Michelle Fine, a professor of psychology and urban education at the City University of New York’s graduate center, has overseen the students’ work to document the effects of the Brown decision. A DVD and book and a series of scholarly reports also will be released. Information:

  • May 15 — The National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, opens a yearlong exhibit tracing the historical events that led up to and were influenced by the Brown decision. The exhibit centers on how the case transformed the country, including a look at segregated American life and the role education played in ending it; profiles of prominent figures in the Brown case; and an examination of how the legal arguments worked their way to the Supreme Court. Museum Web site:

  • May 17-19 — New York University hosts a conference, Brown Plus 50: A Renewed Agenda for Social Justice,” in New York City. Kicking off the conference will be a “teach-in” for high school students from across the country, who can participate in person or via webcast. The conference will also include nationally webcast forums and discussion sessions on the legacies of Brown, the difficulty of putting the decision into practice, and policy direction for the future. NYU Web site:

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