Biden commemorates Brown v. Board of Education anniversary with White House meeting

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday met with family members of the plaintiffs in the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed racial segregation in American public schools.

Biden, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, commemorated 70 years since the ruling took place during a meeting in the White House Oval Office.

Despite the landmark ruling, racial segregation in schools effectively continues across the country, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office says educational inequities still impact children of color.

Schools “remain divided along racial, ethnic, and economic lines,” with around 18.5 million children attending schools where 75 percent or more of students were “of a single race or ethnicity,” a 2022 report by the GAO said.

Biden has made racial equity a priority of his administration. He chose Kamala Harris as his running mate, making her the first Black and Asian American woman to serve as vice president. He nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court, and sought to create a cabinet that reflects the diversity of America.

“There’s an acknowledgement every day with our president that we’re not where we ought to be, but we’re certainly not where we used to be,” Stephen Benjamin, a senior adviser to Biden and former mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, told reporters. “Still a lot of work to be done.”

Brown v. Board of Education was consolidated with four other cases from the District of Columbia, South Carolina, Virginia and Delaware.

Biden met with Cheryl Brown Henderson, whose father, Oliver Brown, was the lead plaintiff in Brown v. Board, plaintiff Victoria Benson, Adrienne Jennings Bennett, a plaintiff in one of the consolidated cases, Boiling v. Sharpe, and John Stokes, a plaintiff in another of the consolidated cases, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County.

“We’re still fighting the battle over whose children do we invest in. Any time we can talk about failing underfunded public schools, there is a problem,” Henderson said after the meeting.

“We must continue to fight on all fronts,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP civil rights group, who also attended the meeting.

Biden, who is running against former President Donald Trump, a Republican, in the 2024 race for the White House, has seen his approval among some Black voters, especially Black men, slip, and his campaign is seeking to shore up their support.

Trump said in a recent Time magazine interview that “there is a definite anti-white feeling” in the United States and his allies favor dismantling corporate and government programs to combat racism and increase diversity.

The Supreme Court heard Brown v. Board twice: once in June 1953 and again in December 1954, with Earl Warren as chief justice.

In a unanimous May 14, 1954, decision, the court ruled racial segregation was a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

“In the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place,” Warren wrote.

Biden will hold a series of events related to the Brown v. Board anniversary, including remarks at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on Friday and a commencement address at Morehouse College, a historically Black men’s liberal arts college, in Atlanta on Sunday.

Benjamin, the president’s senior adviser, said on Thursday that the Biden administration had invested more than $16 billion in historically Black colleges and universities.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman and Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Tom Hogue and Alistair Bell)






Close Bitnami banner