Friday, December 03, 2004

Brown v. Board of Education speakers and sources

At last night’s Hiram H. Lesar Distinguished Lecture, Cheryl Brown Henderson and John Stokes shared with us some of the stories behind two of the five consolidated class-action lawsuits that came to be known as Brown v. Board of Education.

Dr. Henderson, whose father was the named plaintiff in the Topeka, Kansas, case, began by debunking some of the myths about Brown that pervade the web. The myths on which she gave us the true story included:
  • Brown v. Board of Education was the first legal challenge to racially segregated schools in the United States.

  • The Brown case was filed by the father of a little girl who wanted to go to her neighborhood school in Topeka but was denied access because it was a school for whites only.

  • The Topeka lawsuit listed Oliver Brown first of the thirteen plaintiffs because he was the first plaintiff to sign on or the first alphabetically.

If you do a web search for Brown v. Board of Education, you will find these myths and others on many of the web pages that search engines retrieve. You can research Brown on the web, you just need to distinguish the credible and authoritative sites from all the rest. Dr. Henderson told us of three web sites she knows to be authoritative. They are: Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research at

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site at

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA):

John Stokes was one of the plaintiffs in Davis et al. v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, et al, another of the five consolidated cases. Davis was the only case of the five in which the plaintiffs were all students, rather than parents. Dr. Stokes described for us the situation that led to the students filing one of the lawsuits that were eventually consolidated into Brown et al v. Board of Education of Topeka et al.

Dr. Stokes recommended a book by Richard Kluger, Simple Justice : The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality. The law library has three copies of Simple Justice at call number KF 4155 .K55.

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