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Brown at 50: Rekindling the spirit

| 05 November 2003

It’s been nearly half a century since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which held that “separate education facilities are inherently unequal.” The decision forced the desegregation of public schools across America. Educational equality, many be-lieved, would follow; but massive de facto segregation persists, and so do significant gaps in school achievement between racial groups.
On Nov. 13 and 14, Boalt Hall’s Center for Social Justice will host “Rekindling the Spirit of Brown v. Board of Education,” a conference and “call to action” on the unfulfilled promise of equal education. Speakers and attendees will include attorneys, community organizers, academics, and educators from around the country.

“The purpose is to bring together scholars and activists — people who don’t usually talk to one another — to discuss innovative strategies for achieving educational equality in K-12,” says Mary Louise Frampton, director of the center.

The event begins at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, when Elaine Jones, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, talks on “A Call to Action.” Her lecture will be held in Boalt Hall’s Booth Auditorium. Friday’s proceedings, at the same location, begin at 9 a.m. with a look back at the long journey from the transformative vision of Brown to today’s debates over “minimum education” standards. Civil-rights icon Jack Greenberg of Columbia Law School, will speak on that panel, as will Sacramento Bee editor Peter Schrag, author of the new book Final Test: The Battle for Adequacy in America’s Schools; Professor of History Waldo Martin of Berkeley; and James Anderson of the University of Illinois.

Among other luminaries on the day’s agenda are nationally known educator Jeannie Oakes of UCLA; Arthur Benson, an attorney involved in an important Kansas City desegregation case; and ACLU lawyer Catherine Llahmon, counsel for the plaintiffs in Williams v. State of California, a major class-action suit on behalf of poor students of color, currently making its way through the courts.

The symposium is free and open to the public. For additional information, including a complete list of panelists, see the conference website, law.berkeley.edu/cenpro/csj/Brown%20Symposium.htmor call 642-6969.