Monday, May 19, 2014

HISTORY - Brown v. Board 60th Anniversary

"60 years after Brown v. Board, school segregation isn’t yet American history" PBS NewsHour 5/16/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Saturday marks 60 years since the landmark Supreme Court decision that declared separate schools for black and white students are unconstitutional.

Gwen Ifill recorded a conversation about the anniversary earlier this week, but, first, some background.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The case was named for Linda Brown, a third-grader in Topeka, Kansas, forced to travel more than an hour each day to an all-black elementary school, rather than attend the all-white school located just blocks from her home.

Government-sanctioned racial discrimination was the law of the land in 1954.  The Supreme Court’s Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling half-a-century earlier had ruled that, as long as separate facilities were considered equal, segregation itself wasn’t a violation the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

But the Browns, Linda and her two sisters, who were joined by families of students in four states and the District of Columbia, said no.  Their class-action suit eventually reached the Supreme Court.

Retired Baltimore public school principal John Stokes was one of the original plaintiffs in the Virginia case included in the Brown litigation.

JOHN STOKES, Plaintiff, Brown v. Board of Education:  It was separate, though it was never equal.

GWEN IFILL:  He describes the conditions at his overcrowded all-black high school in Farmville, Virginia, as deplorable, with no running water or indoor plumbing, and a potbelly stove that leaked soot into the classroom.

JOHN STOKES:  We knew we were being programmed for failure.  It was very obvious.  We could not only see it.  We could smell it, and when that soot fell down from that flue, we could taste it.  We could actually taste it.  So we knew we had to do something to make a change.

Significant Question:

SHERYLL CASHIN, Georgetown University Law School:  There are also innovations that you can do in terms of changing the finance system.  Why is it?  We haven’t — we haven’t really tried this many places, but why is it that states require schools to be funded based on property taxes?

Poorer neighborhoods mean lower property tax collected for education, leading to lower school funding.

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