Sixty-five years ago today, the justices of the United States Supreme Court voted to overturn decades of racial segregation in American public schools. Buttressed by the groundbreaking research of psychologists Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark on the adverse effects of segregation on black children, the Brown v. Board of Education decision inaugurated a new chapter in American education that would compel communities to reckon with racism and inequality in new ways. But as we reflect upon this momentous legal decision, we must ask whether the educational equity that Brown called for has actually been realized—as well as what curious residues of racial segregation remain more than a half-century later.
Nearly 65 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education that separate schools for black and white children were not and could never be equal. As we navigate continuing threats to educational equity in the present, we invite you to learn more about the history of Brown and its legacy through these six resources.
In February 1968, Thomas “T.O.” Jones led 1,300 black sanitation workers in a citywide strike against Memphis’ abusive treatment of its black employees. Facing History is honoring Jones and 13 other Memphians who chose to confront injustice and defy indifference through our Upstanders Mural. This commnity-driven public art display is located across the street from the National Civil Rights Museum and steps away from where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
We spoke with Dory Lerner, Museum Educator at the National Civil Rights Museum and a Facing History volunteer, about the importance of the mural in the community and how the stories of these Upstanders can be blueprints for changemakers today.
As a 12-year-old African American boy fresh off the influence of Malcolm X’s autobiography, I didn't always appreciate the ethical stock of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember watching a news report about his birthday and remarking, to the dismay of my mother that, "Martin Luther King was a sell-out."
This week marks the 150th anniversary of the 14th Amendment in the United States, which was born out of struggles to rebuild the country following the Civil War. While approximately 4 million formerly enslaved black people were freed, the battle to define that freedom had just begun. It would last from 1865-1877 and is known as the Reconstruction Era. This period was described as a “splendid failure” by scholar and activist, W.E.B. Du Bois, yet important progress was made toward equal rights.
When I was in elementary school, I was chosen to read aloud a poem I wrote about Martin Luther King, Jr. It was during a school-wide assembly to celebrate the United States’ Black History Month. I remember reciting my poem and the celebratory feeling in the room. The sense that we were united by the legacy of this wonderful man and our enlightened accomplishments as a racially diverse school community. Even then I understood that my presence onstage was meant to be evidence of that enlightenment and progress.
For the past three years, Dr. Sybil Hampton has been featured as a guest speaker for Facing History and Ourselves’ online course, “Choices in Little Rock.” Her experience as one of the first African American students to graduate from Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1962 makes her a witness to history. She shares her reflections on why she chooses to participate in Facing History’s online professional development courses.
Register today! Our online courses start on February 4.
Next week we will take the time to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His message of calling people from all walks of life to work together in support of the common good is just as pertinent now as it was then. As we prepare to talk to our students about what Dr. King stood for, here are some digital tools to bring his words and ideas to life in your classroom. This round up will enhance your students’ ability to study his role in the Civil Rights Movement while inspiring them to participate as upstanders in their own communities.
It could have been me. In fact, it could have been any of us. By us, I mean the people all over this world who enter churches, synagogues, mosques, and other sacred places of worship to study, to pray, to listen, to sing, and sometimes even to mourn.
Violent riots and protests erupted in Baltimore, Maryland, this week, following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray after his arrest by police. As has happened much too often in the past year, current events are having an impact on the hearts and minds of our students