The Lead

Activists mark 65th anniversary of landmark school desegregation case: ‘There’s always more we can do’

By: - May 14, 2019 2:25 pm

Activists from Tuesdays with Toomey rally in Harrisburg, Pa., on May 13, 2019 to mark the 65th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education (Capital-Star photo).

This Friday, May 17, marks 65 years since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education, finally desegregating America’s public schools. In the two generations since then, America has made great progress, but “there’s always something more we can do.”

That’s the message activists at a weekly “Tuesdays with Toomey” rally in Harrisburg wanted to send on Tuesday, as they called for U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to vote against confirming federal judicial nominees who will not protect the decision and its legacy.

“We have federal judicial nominees, currently, who will not say that Brown v. Board of Education was correctly decided,” said Kadida Kenner, of the advocacy group Why Courts Matter. “And that’s so problematic when it comes to our federal judiciary and the fact that Sen. Toomey will confirm these nominees. He’s done so in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.”

(As a matter of full disclosure, Kenner is an occasional opinion contributor to the Capital-Star)

As Slate reports, a number of President Donald Trump’s federal court nominees have declined to say if Brown — a decision widely considered part of the nation’s civil rights bedrock — was correctly decided. Instead, they have declared the case to be “precedent,” which some legal scholars believe could be a pretext for overturning it.

The 1954 decision, arising from a case in the Topeka, Kansas, declared that racial segregation of public school students was unconstitutional, and determined that the “separate but equal” services provided to white and black students were not equal after all.

“We’re talking about the desegregation of public schools, of public accommodation,” Kenner said. “This just isn’t for African Americans, this is for all Americans because it allows everyone to have that equality and justice they’re looking for.”

Kenner said the nation and American schools have made progress since that fateful day in 1954, but “there’s always something more we can do.”

A spokesman for Toomey could not immediately be reached for comment for this story.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.