Equity & Diversity

Brown Commission To Coordinate Commemoration

By Erik W. Robelen — September 18, 2002 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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.”


English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
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.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Language Barriers With Schools: Immigrant Parents Tell Tales of Exclusion
Non-English-speaking parents say they've long been excluded from parts of their children’s education, and the pandemic has made it worse.
5 min read
Student teacher Olivia Vazquez, standing, left, speaks with a student at the Eliza B. Kirkbride School in Philadelphia in October. Vazquez is finishing up her last semester at Swarthmore College and hoping to help make sure immigrant students arriving in Philadelphia have a more supportive experience in school than she did growing up.
Student teacher Olivia Vazquez, standing, left, speaks with a student at the Eliza B. Kirkbride School in Philadelphia in October. Vazquez is finishing up her last semester at Swarthmore College and hoping to help make sure immigrant students arriving in Philadelphia have a more supportive experience in school than she did growing up.
Matt Rourke/AP
Equity & Diversity Opinion No, Love Won’t Fix Institutional Racism in Education
Racially just books are under attack in schools. Defending an anti-racist curriculum demands a deeper understanding of how power operates.
Altheria Caldera
4 min read
Photo of separated black and white chess pieces
Radachynskyi/iStock/Getty Images Plus<br/>
Equity & Diversity Spotlight Spotlight on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
This Spotlight will empower you to assess where the work still needs to be done to ensure your students and educators are represented and included.
Equity & Diversity Transgender Students and School Sports: Six Things to Know About a Raging Debate
States have considered a surge of legislation that would restrict transgender students from teams that align with their gender identity.
9 min read
Laur Kaufman, 13, of Harlingen, waves a flag at a rally against House Bill 25, a bill that would ban transgender girls from participating in girls school sports, outside the Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.
Laur Kaufman, 13, of Harlingen, Texas, waves a flag at a rally at the state capitol in Austin against a bill that would restrict transgender students' access to single-sex sports teams.
Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP