60 years after Brown v. Board, how far has the nation come in eliminating segregated education?


Nine-year-old African-American student Linda Brown — seen at the first desk in second row from right — sits with her classmates at the racially segregated Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas, in 1953. When her enrollment at a “whites-only” school was blocked, her family initiated the landmark Civil Rights lawsuit “Brown V. Board of Education,” that led to the beginning of integration in the U.S. education system. Photo by Carl Iwasaki/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of “Brown v. Board of Education,” the landmark Supreme Court ruling that declared separate schools for black and white children were “inherently unequal.”

The case’s namesake was Oliver Brown of Topeka, Kansas — a father whose third-grade daughter, Linda, had to commute for over an hour to get to her all-black elementary school each morning, rather than attending the all-white school located blocks from her home. Brown sued on the grounds that his daughter’s rights under the Constitution’s equal protection clause were being violated.

Backed by the NAACP, three more states and the District of Columbia joined Brown’s class-action lawsuit before it reached the Supreme Court, where the case was argued by Thurgood Marshall, who would later become the court’s first African-American justice.

On May 17, 1954, the court unanimously found that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.” However, opposition to the ruling was immediate and fierce, especially in the south, and it would be 10 more years before President Lyndon Johnson would sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Sixty years later, the question of how far the nation has come in eliminating segregated education and increasing opportunity is not a simple one.

Tune in to PBS NewsHour on Friday for Gwen Ifill’s in-depth conversation on the ruling, and its historical impact. Joining her will be:

  • Cheryl Brown Henderson, president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research
  • Sheryll Cashin, professor of law at Georgetown University and author of the new book “Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America”
  • Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education
  • Ron Brownstein, editorial director for Atlantic Media and a columnist for National Journal

Related: Educational resources for teaching students about Brown v. Board of Education

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