Equity & Diversity

Brown Commission To Coordinate Commemoration

By Erik W. Robelen — September 18, 2002 2 min read

The Bush administration announced the creation of a 21-member commission last week to oversee activities commemorating the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Striking a historic blow at racial segregation, the unanimous 1954 ruling found that laws separating elementary and secondary students by race violated black students’ constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

“The decision ... dramatically opened the doors of opportunity to countless numbers of Americans, including me,” said Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who at the time of the ruling was a 20-year-old college student at Jackson State University in Mississippi.

May 17, 2004, will mark a half-century since the high court under Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered its decision. The anniversary commission will work with the Department of Education and the Topeka, Kan.-based Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence, and Research to plan and coordinate public education activities and initiatives, according to an announcement from the department. The events are expected to include public lectures, writing contests, and public-awareness campaigns.

The commission is co-chaired by Gerald A. Reynolds, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, and Ralph F. Boyd Jr., the assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Department of Justice. Members were selected by the Bush administration, in consultation with Congress, by Chief Justice William A. Rehnquist, by the Brown Foundation, and by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. (“Commission Members,” this issue.)

The ruling known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka combined cases from four states: Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, and Virginia. The same day, the court also invalidated school segregation in the District of Columbia in a companion case, Bolling v. Sharpe.

At that time, however, the justices did not order a specific remedy.

‘All Deliberate Speed’

It was not until one year later that the court issued a follow-up ruling on what school systems were required to do under the 1954 decision. In a seven-paragraph ruling referred to as Brown II, the court, again in unanimity, rejected a plea from the NAACP lawyers for a one-year desegregation deadline.

Instead, the court sent the cases back to lower courts with instructions to require that local school authorities “make a prompt and reasonable start toward full compliance” with the 1954 ruling. But the court said districts could do so “with all deliberate speed,” semantic wiggle room that allowed some states and school districts to delay integration of classrooms by more than a decade.

The Brown decision took its name from Oliver Brown, the lead Topeka plaintiff, who sued on behalf of his daughter Linda.

The commission will first meet at Howard University in Washington on Nov. 13.

Asked for more details on what’s in store, Susan M. Aspey, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said no firm decisions had been made.

“That’s something that the commission will be looking into,” she said, “how best to commemorate this decision, not just on that day, but in the time period leading up to the [50th anniversary], and afterwards.”

Events

School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Branding your district matters. This webinar will provide you with practical tips and strategies to elevate your brand from three veteran professionals, each of whom has been directly responsible for building their own district’s brand.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. school districts are using hybrid learning right now with varying degrees of success. Students and teachers are getting restless and frustrated with online learning, making curriculum engagement difficult and disjointed. While
Content provided by Samsung

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Principal-Elementary School
San Antonio, TX, US
Southwest Independent School District
Principal-Elementary School
San Antonio, TX, US
Southwest Independent School District
Principal-Elementary School
San Antonio, TX, US
Southwest Independent School District
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion 'We Can’t Wait Until People Feel Comfortable Talking About Race'
White Fragility and Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in School are two of many books on race suggested by four educators.
15 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion Tackling the 'Taboo' of Talking About Race & Privilege
Four educators share suggestions for books and articles white educators can read to learn more about race and racism.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion How to Make Anti-Racism More Than a Performance
Whether white people are ready or not, policies have to change, writes the co-founder of the Abolitionist Teaching Network.
5 min read
Illustration shown.
Nip Rogers for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion How Teachers Can Get America's Story Right
The attack on the U.S. Capitol shows why we need more inclusive schools, writes a teacher advocate.
Scott Goldstein
3 min read
18Goldstein 1126473545
iStock/Getty