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Oct. 22, 2003

U-M commemorates Brown v. Board Supreme Court ruling

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The University of Michigan will sponsor a semester-long commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court case, beginning in January with a campus appearance by the Brown sisters. Last spring's landmark Supreme Court rulings on U-M's admissions policies were widely linked with the Brown case.

Linda Brown was a Topeka, Kansas girl forced to walk seven blocks and then ride a bus five miles to school each day because she was barred from attending an all-white public school four blocks from her home. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown's favor, declaring unconstitutional its 1896 "separate but equal" ruling that had allowed segregation to flourish. Linda Brown Thompson and her sister, Cheryl Brown Henderson, will present their historic stories first-hand.

Other Brown-related events will include appearances by Lani Guinier, the first tenured black female law professor at Harvard; Ernest Green, one of the Little Rock Nine who, with others of their generation, helped integrate Southern schools in the 1950s; and Beverly Tatum, a U-M graduate who is president of Spelman College. A theme semester, sponsored by the College of Literature, Science, and Arts, will offer more than two dozen undergraduate courses specially designed to promote deeper learning about the topic. A new digital archive of related teaching materials will be created by the University Library.

The attention to Brown v. Board in the larger community will include Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Reads, which will promote reading and discussion of Tatum's book "Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations about Race," and the First Annual Ann Arbor Book Festival, featuring authors of related books and a benefit dinner with the writers. Tatum earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from U-M.

Among the campus events:


• Jan. 12. Linda Brown and Cheryl Brown Henderson will present first-person accounts of their role in Brown v. Board of Education.

• Jan. 19. Lani Guinier will serve as the keynote speaker for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Symposium. Guinier gained national fame in 1993 when former President Clinton withdrew her nomination to head the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division after some of her views sparked outcry from opponents.

• Feb. 12. A public presentation on the legacy of the Little Rock, Ark. desegregation efforts of the late 1950s will feature Ernest Green, the oldest of the Little Rock Nine. Green had to be escorted by federal troops to enter a previously all-white high school and later became the first member of the group to graduate from Central High School. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Michigan State University.

• March 25. "Continuing the Conversation" will feature Gary Orfield, co-director of the Harvard Civil Rights Project and Spelman College President Beverly Tatum, whose book will be the focus of "Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Reads."

• May 14-15. The U-M School of Education will host a conference on the impact of the Brown decision on K-12 education. Damon J. Keith, United States Court of Appeals Judge for the Sixth Circuit since 1977, is the keynote speaker.

• May 17. The 50th anniversary of the ruling, the annual Provost's Seminar will focus on multi-cultural teaching.

Participants in the Brown v. Board commemoration include U-M's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Law School, School of Education, Ford School of Public Policy, Rackham Graduate School, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, Arts of Citizenship, the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, the U-M Library, the Michigan Union, the Neutral Zone, campus and community chapters of the NAACP, and the Ann Arbor District Library and the Ypsilanti District Library.

Related links:

"Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Reads'' from the Ann Arbor District Library >

Lani Guinier >

Linda Brown Thompson >

Ernest Green >

Judge Damon Keith >

Contact: Joe Serwach
Phone: (734) 647-1844
E-mail: jserwach@umich.edu
Web: http://www.umich.edu/brown50