The University will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education during the winter semester with the theme of “Fulfilling the Promise of Brown.” The semester’s special courses, lectures and events will examine the case’s legacy and its effect on integrating schools over the past 50 years.

The theme was created after Senior Vice Provost Lester Monts requested that schools on campus meet and discuss ways in which to commemorate the anniversary of the Brown case. The meeting led to the creation of a planning committee which chose the theme.

The University hopes the commemoration of the anniversary will provide the chance for people to reflect on the impact of the case.

“The University of Michigan is holding a semester-long commemoration of the 1954 decision to take stock of a difficult and yet hopeful half-century in American race relations,” LSA assistant Dean Evans Young said. “We’ve witnessed a tremendous expansion of civil and political rights and a vast transformation of public education.”

The themed semester will begin Jan. 12 with speeches by Linda Brown Thompson and Cheryl Brown Henderson – the girls at the center of the Brown case – at the Martin Luther King Symposium. Oliver Brown, their father, was the plaintiff in the Brown case.

Among the major events, Lani Guinier will deliver a speech on Jan. 19 as the Martin Luther King Day Speaker. Guinier, the first black woman to receive tenure at Harvard Law School, was President Clinton’s nominee to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in 1993 and would have become the first black woman to head the division if Clinton had not withdrawn her nomination.

On Feb. 12, Ernest Green of the “Little Rock Nine,” will deliver a lecture as part of the themed semester. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Brown case, Green and eight other students were among the first black students at Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957. After the nine students were initially turned away from the school, President Dwight Eisenhower sent federal troops to the school to enforce the desegregation.

Students are also encouraged to participate in the Ann Arbor Reads program. Based on last year’s program, where students read “Abraham Lincoln’s DNA,” this year’s program will feature a book, yet to be chosen, relating to the Brown case.

The departments of Psychology, History and Sociology, and the Program in American Culture and the Center for Afro-American and African Studies are offering special courses related to the Brown case.

In addition, there will be film screenings, lectures and cultural events throughout the semester.

“Some of these events are still being planned and finalized,” University spokesman Joseph Serwach said.

The themed semester will culminate on May 17, the anniversary of the Brown ruling, with a conference titled “The Impact of Brown on K-12 Educations.”

Some student groups will participate in the University’s commemoration while others will hold their own events.

A pro-affirmative action student group, By Any Means Necessary, will hold a civil rights conference from Nov. 7 to Nov. 9.

“The conference will be a kick off to planning the May 15 march,” LSA senior and BAMN organizer Kate Stenvig said. The march will be held in Washington to commemorate the Brown case.

“Because it’s the 50th anniversary, we have a real opportunity to expose the fact that our society is still segregated and have the chance to realize the full promise of Brown,” Stenvig added.

The Brown case began in 1950 after members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter in Topeka, Kan. decided to challenge the “separate but equal” principle. In the effort of filing a class action suit against the Board of Education of Topeka Public Schools, 13 parents attempted to enroll their children in the schools. After the schools refused enrollment, the parents were to report to the NAACP to provide evidence for the class action suit. As the suit made its way to the Supreme Court, it was combined with other NAACP cases from Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina and Washington. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, that the “separate but equal” doctrine violated the Fourteenth Amendment and was unconstitutional.

“There is a natural connection between Michigan and the Brown case,” Serwach said. “A lot of people feel the Michigan cases are a part of the Brown legacy.”

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