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Updated 11:30 AM October 27, 2003



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U-M commemorates Brown v. Board Supreme Court ruling

The University 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 often were linked with the Brown case.

Lani Guinier (Photo courtesy Keppler Associates)

Linda Brown was a Topeka, Kan., 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 LSA, 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 received her doctorate in clinical psychology from U-M.

Among the campus events:

• Jan. 12: Linda Brown and Cheryl Brown Henderson will present 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 then-President Clinton withdrew her nomination to head the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division after some of her views sparked an 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 Beverly Tatum;

• May 14-15: The School of Education will host a conference on the impact of the Brown decision on K-12 education. Damon 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 multicultural teaching.

Participants in the Brown v. Board commemoration include LSA, the Law School, the 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 University Library, the Michigan Union, the Neutral Zone, campus and community chapters of the NAACP, the Ann Arbor District Library, and the Ypsilanti District Library.

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