TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) On Saturday, Sumner Legacy Trust held their last event honoring the 65th Anniversary of the Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision.
People had the opportunity to take a tour to more than ten historical sites throughout the Capital City on a Brown v. Board themed Topeka Metro bus.
“Sometimes you go right by and you dont know how significant these buildings are and the history behind it” said Rodney Walker of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Video: School segregation in on the rise across the U.S., 65 Years after Brown vs. Board of Education
Karen Barron came on the tour with her daughter Shawnee and they said, “To actually see the physical building just makes it more realistic, it makes it easier to imagine.”
Joan Wilson was one of the tour guides and she said, “These buildings definitely represent time. Time gone by, time standing still, but definitely connecting the story from yesterday to today.”
Along the way, the tour guides told stories of the people and places involved in making the historic court case possible.
Tour groups also got to exchange in open dialogue, asking questions and sharing their own experiences.
Barron was very pleased saying, “It was a real back and forth conversation which I thought was very useful.”
A high school student in Pottstown explained the effects of inequitable funding on his future. He worried that the lack of AP course offerings at his school would put him at a disadvantage compared to other students who had the privilege of taking AP courses in their adequately funded high schools.
Brown v. Board of Education turns 65 today. These students are still fighting for integration in NYC schools.
When the tour was over both the guides and passengers said they left with a new perspective on that piece of our history.
Back then, the Supreme Court declared that school segregation was unequal and unconstitutional. But today, many fear that the promise of the ruling has not been fulfilled.
On May 17 the nation commemorated the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate schools for Black and White students is inherently unequal. The landmark decision was seen as a major victory in the civil rights movement.
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On Brown v Board of Educations 65th anniversary, school segregation remains: Report
Katherine Sawyer was the only child to testify in the Brown vs. Board of Education case. She told NBC News that she would give integration in Americas public schools a C grade because we havent gone far enough.
Cities including Pottstown, York, Lancaster, Reading, and Allentown receive between $13–$110 million less than their fair share. Philadelphia is getting a whopping $344 million less than what it deserves.
Brown v. Board of Education came at a time when Jim Crow laws were dominating the South. Oliver Browns 7-year old daughter, Linda, had to travel two miles to school each day in Topeka because she was not allowed to attend the all-white school in her neighborhood. Brown joined other families from three other states and the District of Columbia in a battle to desegregate schools. The ruling propelled America into a new chapter, one in which the doors of schools across the country were now legally open to black families.
In 2015, 87 percent of African Americans had high school diplomas, according to the Census Bureau, and researchers have found that the enrollment numbers of African American students in colleges and universities have increased since the late 20th century.
With districts no longer under court order to integrate, todays levels of school segregation have returned to those of the 1960s.
Sawyer doesnt remember being afraid to share her story at the time about how she had to take a crowded city bus to her school across town. She said she told them all about the bus ride and the walk to the bus stop.
About every maybe half a block or so we would have to go to the side and scrape the mud off of our boots so that we could continue on till we got up to where the bus was going to be,” she recalled.
At the time, Sawyer was worried about what would happen to black teachers. Were they going to lose their jobs, you know, when they integrated the school?
Researchers found that 38,000 black administrators and teachers in the South did end up losing their jobs after the Supreme Court decision. Education Week reports that 65 years later, the absence of black teachers is still felt in classrooms.
De Blasio also declined an invitation to meet on Friday with the students of Teens Take Charge, who will sit down with some of City Hall and the education department’s most senior officials to lobby for changes in how students are assigned to high schools. The mayor is scheduled to be in Iowa — his first campaign stop after officially announcing his presidential bid on Thursday.
Sawyer attended Topeka High School years after Brown v. Board was passed. The school is now more diverse, with 43 percent white, 38 percent Hispanic and 17 percent African American, according to district information.
This school values tradition and diversity in a way I had never experienced before I came here, Principal Rebecca Morrisey said. I have students who are white or Hispanic or black who choose and want to come here because of that diversity.
Young people in New York City have been a leading voice in a budding grassroots fight for schools that are more diverse and inclusive. Friday’s actions turn up pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio to take more decisive steps toward integration just as he jumps into the 2020 race for the White House, touting his progressive credentials.
I learn many different things from other types of people — like sexual orientation, race, gender, everything, said De La Isla.
Leanne Nunes, a high school junior in the Bronx who helped plan the event, says it’s also a way to highlight the progress already being made, even if it’s insufficient. She pointed to community-driven changes to middle school admissions in places like Brooklyn’s District 15 as something to be celebrated.
Dr. Tiffany Anderson, the first African American female superintendent of Topeka Public Schools, wants the district to continue to support diversity.
You know, one of the things that legislation will do is to change laws, but it doesnt change hearts and minds, Anderson said. Topeka has made great progress in fulfilling the promise to integrate schools, but Topeka, like many cities, still has a long way to go to. We just have to have the courage to walk in our calling.
Nonetheless, a study released last week by the UCLA Civil Rights Project reported that there is no cause for celebration. By 2016, 40 percent of all black students were in schools with 90 percent or more students of color. New York, California, Illinois and Maryland are the four states in which a majority of black students attend 90-100 percent nonwhite schools. In fact, segregation for black students has expanded in all regions of the country, except for the Midwest.
“We find that diversity has been discussed and integration has been discussed, but generally that’s the only thing that has happened,” said Tiffani Torres, a high school junior and a member of Teens Take Charge. “We want action.”
“The sad thing honestly is here, 60 years after Brown v. Board, so many Black, Latino, poor kids are in schools that are as highly segregated as was true 10 years after Brown v. Board,” said Noliwe Rooks, professor of Africana Studies at Cornell University. “One of the reasons weve returned to such high levels of segregation is we refuse to believe that separate is inherently unequal.
As a great-grandmother of five, Katherine Sawyer says her family gives her hope that the next generation will make more progress.
I think we have time, said Sawyer. My children have time, my grandchildren have time and maybe my great-grandchildren have the time. I dont have the time, and so I see things in them that I think can change.”
Rehema Ellis joined NBC News in 1994 as a general assignment correspondent. In 2010 she was named education correspondent and was an integral part of NBCs first annual Education Nation summit that focused on the strengths and weaknesses of Americas education system.
Her reports appear on “Nightly News with Brian Williams,” “TODAY,” and MSNBC. Ellis was part of the NBC Emmy award-winning coverage of the plane crash in the Hudson River called, Miracle on the Hudson. She also won an Emmy for her reporting on the 2008 Presidential Election of Barack Obama and his historic inauguration.
Ellis has been part of other headliner stories including the attacks on the World Trade Center. She was the first person to identify the attack on the air as Nine-Eleven.” Shes reported on Hurricane Katrina, the death of Michael of Jackson and the Haiti earthquake.
As a correspondent for NBC, Ellis traveled to Zaire to report on the mass killings that left an estimated one million people dead in Rwanda. A few years later she spent a month in Greece covering the summer Olympics.
Ellis began her broadcast career at KDKA Radio and TV in Pittsburgh. Later, she worked in Boston at WHDH-TV as a reporter and weekend anchor.
She has distinguished herself as a lead correspondent and received numerous awards including local and national Emmys, Edward R. Murrow Awards, Associated Press awards and awards from the National Association of Black Journalists. Shes also a recipient of an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Journalism.
Born in North Carolina, and raised in Boston, she graduated from Simmons College in Boston and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York.