Sunday, April 21, 2024

National Museum of African American History and Culture To Recognize 70th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) recognizes the 70th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court with a daylong public event Friday, May 17. Held in collaboration with the NAACP, the day will include several panel discussions, such as one featuring participants of the Little Rock Nine, the first African American students to enter Little Rock, Arkansas’ Central High School in 1957.

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court delivered its unanimous 9-0 decision overturning the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling as it applied to public education, stating that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” In a watershed moment for equality and democracy, racial segregation laws were declared in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, paving the way for integration and winning a major victory for the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. For more information, visit this page.

“The National Museum of African American History and Culture was founded to ensure that this story and other important chapters in the African American experience are never forgotten,” said Kevin Young, NMAAHC’s Andrew W. Mellon Director. “The road to desegregation in the United States was long and arduous. This anniversary stands as a testament to the tenacity and moral clarity of African American trailblazers who insisted on the power of education and refused to settle for the inherent injustice of ‘separate but equal.’”

“Separate but equal” remained the standard doctrine in U.S. law until the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in which the court ruled that segregation in public education was unconstitutional. The case began in 1951 as a class action suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas that called on the city’s Board of Education to reverse its policy of racial segregation. It was initiated by the Topeka chapter of the NAACP, and the plaintiffs were 13 African American parents on behalf of their children. The named plaintiff was Oliver L. Brown, a welder and an assistant pastor at his local church, whose daughter had to walk six blocks to her school bus stop to ride to her segregated Black school one mile away, while a white school was located just seven blocks from her house.

Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future: 70th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education 

Friday, May 17; 10 a.m.–5 p.m. 
NMAAHC’s Oprah Winfrey Theater 

This commemorative event explores the legacy of the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision to end the segregation of America’s schools and educational institutions in collaboration with the NAACP through multiple panel discussions throughout the day. The program features Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Oliver L. Brown in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas; John Stokes of Prince Edward County, Virginia, where schools remained closed for five years rather than comply with the 1954 ruling; and the surviving members of the Little Rock Nine. Admission to this special program is free but requires registration. Registration is required and available online here.

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