The 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s school desegregation decision of Brown v. Board of Education occurred in 2004, and the UI commemorated the historic case with a series of events during the 2003-04 academic year. The centerpiece was a three-day conference in April 2004.
Now the words of many of those who spoke at those events have been collected in “Remembering Brown at Fifty: The University of Illinois Commemorates Brown v. Board of Education.”
Published in December by the UI Press, the volume was edited by former UI history professor Orville Vernon Burton, now at Coastal Carolina University, and David O’Brien, a UI professor of art history.
Among the 32 contributors are well-known scholars, writers and activists such as Julian Bond, Joe R. Feagin, John Hope Franklin, Lani Guinier and Juan Williams – as well as numerous other UI faculty members and others with campus ties. In their papers and essays, they address the significance of the Brown decision in their lives or in their work in education and civil rights.
According to Burton and O’Brien’s introduction, the essays in the book assess Brown’s specific successes and failures. Apart from that, however, they also look at a second generation of school desegregation litigation, challenges raised by school voucher and charter programs, prospects for parity in school funding, and challenges of integration today.
“Taken together, the essays in this volume demonstrate how much the issues and injustices at the root of the Brown decision are still unfortunately with us today,” the editors write. At the same time, however, “the heroic efforts of those who have fought for racial equality and the concrete successes that have come in the name of Brown are cause for celebration.”