The following is a guest blog by Kristine Waid who recently attended the 2018 Missouri Charter Public School Association (MCPSA) Conference.
Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Rev. Oliver Brown who filed suit leading to the decision of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and ended the segregation of public schools, was the keynote speaker at last week’s Missouri Charter Public School Association (MCPSA) Conference.
As the founding member of The Brown Foundation she emphasized the importance of the ongoing impact and significance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision signed on May 17, 1954 at 12:52 pm. That decision reversed the Plessy vs. Ferguson’s “separate but equal” form of education.
Henderson’s reflection enumerated two historical viewpoints: Horace Mann and Horace Mann Bond. Horace Mann believed that education is the great equalizer. Horace Mann Bond believed that school has never built a new social order and that we replicate what we see in larger society.
She pointed out that although the Brown decision was enacted in 1954, it was just the beginning of the conversation. The Supreme Court’s decision became a political wedge issue. Boundaries were redrawn and resources were withdrawn to enforce segregation still. Parents were disenfranchised and therefore children were disenfranchised in school. She gave the example of when a seven-year-old girl by the name of Ruby Bridges had to be escorted to and from school by U.S. Marshals during the New Orleans desegregation crisis in 1960.
Henderson said that privilege concedes nothing and that this perception gap impacts African American identity as children.
She went on to explain that education is the most important tool of state and local government when it comes to enforcing citizenship but noted that, unfortunately, textbooks are not factual about Brown v. The Board of Education.
Textbooks mention the Court’s decision but neglect to mention the Southern Manifesto document that was signed in 1956 by 19 senators and 82 representatives from the South. This document was in opposition to racial integration of public places and accused the Supreme Court of an abuse of judicial power and promised to bring about a reversal of this decision and to prevent the use of force in its implementation.
Henderson said that public schools should have a diverse population to learn from one another, adding that the benefits of unique and different perspectives, histories, and nuances that diversity brings to a community cannot be understated.
She said that it is only through the appreciation of difference that society can collectively move forward and grow, noting that there should be unobstructed access to educational opportunities for all citizens.
Ultimately, the NAACP sought to end the practice of “separate but equal” throughout every segment of society, including public transportation, dining facilities, public schools, and all forms of public accommodation. While these landmark decisions were, and are still, important, we must not forget that as individuals and as a community there is still progress to be made.
CEAM is fighting for that progress by working to ensure that every child has access to the quality school that best fits their needs. Please follow us on Facebook this week to hear more stories of how charter schools are changing lives in St. Louis and Kansas City.
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