Sixty-five years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools were “inherently unequal” in its treatment of African-American youth. According to researcher and scholar Richard Rothstein, the May 17, 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education served as a spark plug for the “freedom rides, sit-ins, voter registration efforts and other actions leading ultimately to civil rights legislation in the late 1950s and 1960s.”
But did it help undo public school segregation? Rothstein and others argue that it didn’t.
For an example of this, look no further than “Segregation’s Legacy,” a story I wrote earlier this year on Summerton, S.C., the small town where the first of five lawsuits that led to Brown was filed. I first went to Summerton in 2003 to look at the town and its schools as the 50th anniversary of Brown approached, then returned in January for another visit to see what — if anything — had changed.
What I found and what I saw was published in the April edition of American School Board Journal, the magazine of the National School Boards Association. In a first for me, the story blends first-person narrative with updated reporting as well as photographs I took.
Sadly, Summerton’s story seems to prove Rothstein’s point. Fifteen years later, another generation of students has been deprived of an opportunity to be part of well-funded, integrated schools where the focus is on learning for the future, not trying to hold on to the past.
I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read “Segregation’s Legacy.” The link to the article is http://bit.ly/ASBJ-Summerton2019. You also can download a copy of my 2004 article at http://bit.ly/ASBJ-Footnote2004.