Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

60 Years after Brown V. Board of Education: The Impact of the Congressional Black Caucus on the Education of Black People in the United States of America (Editor's Commentary)

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

60 Years after Brown V. Board of Education: The Impact of the Congressional Black Caucus on the Education of Black People in the United States of America (Editor's Commentary)

Article excerpt

Education at the Inception of the CBC

For most of the period between reconstruction and the year the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) was organized in 1971, discriminatory practices in public and private education were legal. Most states in the southern region of the United States, which comprised the Confederacy during the Civil War, operated segregated schools, which were found to be legal by the Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson (Deever, 1994). Although Plessy vs. Ferguson mandated "separate but equal," segregated states offered substandard educational facilities and resources to Black students. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education (Araiza & Medina, 2011) held that separate schools were fundamentally unequal and illegal because they forced inferior education on students because of their race.

After the Brown decision, severe civil unrest erupted in U.S. states that were operating segregated schools and colleges. Black people, and nonblack people who supported integration, suffered violence, harassment, and intimidation for attempting to comply with federal mandates (Leeson, 1966). During this time, many Black civil rights leaders emerged to raise public awareness of the pervasive discriminatory practices and open defiance of federal educational mandates. Often through military action, the federal government under the Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy presidential administrations had to force integration of public schools (Santoro, 2008). Several Civil Rights leaders, and many citizens, were murdered for their role in the fight against racial discrimination.

After President Kennedy was assassinated, President Lyndon B. Johnson in collaboration with many Black members of congress and Civil Rights leaders continued efforts to protect Black people from unlawful maneuvers among many educational institutions to maintain discriminatory practices (Santoro, 2008). During the Great Society programs, legislation was crafted to create programs and resources so that Black people could recover from almost a century of legal discrimination and over 400 years of slavery.

Specific legislation that passed during this period included the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), Higher Education Act of 1965, and the TRIO program, which were designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds (West, 1968). Several years later, in 1969, the "Democratic Select Committee," was founded by a group of Black members of the House of Representatives, including Representative Shirley Chisholm of New York, Representative Louis Stokes of Ohio and Representative William L. Clay of Missouri (Barnett, 1975).

The CBC was founded in 1971; 6 years after congress passed the boldest legislative initiatives to resolve educational inequities in the history of the U.S. and 4 years after President Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court (Barnett, 1975). New legislation provided the legal basis for affirmative action programs and antidiscrimination lawsuits. However, the Black community was also experiencing uncertainty and consternation due to civil unrest. Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, sparking race riots in 44 cities, and persistent racial inequities deepened many Black peoples' cynicism toward government (Toldson, 2007). A new wave of Black leaders began to emerge who questioned the efficacy of integration and nonviolent resistance, setting the stage for the Black power movement.

In 1972, under the chairpersonship of Representative Louis Stokes, the CBC sponsored the National Policy Conference on Education for Blacks (Congressional Black Caucus, 1972). The major speakers at the conference were: Representative Louis Stokes, Kenneth B. Clark, Arthur A. Fletcher, Mayor Carl B. Stokes, Nathaniel R. Jones and Vivian W. Henderson. The initial purpose of the conference was to discuss issues with implementing the educational mandates of Brown (1954); however the attendees also debated the merits of integration versus separate education for Black children. …

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