ABA President Calls Landmark Brown v. Board of Education Ruling a ‘Work in Progress’
BOSTON, April 15, 2004 – American Bar Association President Dennis W. Archer says the desegregation goals of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision have not yet been realized in Boston or in other areas of the country.
In remarks prepared for delivery at a weeklong Harvard University-sponsored celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision mandating desegregation of public schools, Archer says the ruling “is best understood as a work in progress.”
“Here in Boston, issues of race in education are still playing a huge part in the public debate. We cannot talk about the progress we’ve made without acknowledging that we still battle over where to send our children to school; whether we still need busing; why some neighborhood schools are not very good, and why there aren’t enough schools in minority neighborhoods to properly educate our children,” Archer says.
Public school officials in Boston have launched a citywide discussion about busing and school assignment, and the city’s School Assignment Task Force will be holding public hearings in the next two weeks, with final recommendations due to the superintendent of schools in June.
Archer, the first person of color to be president of the ABA in the organization’s 125-year history, mentions that he spoke with high school students in his home city of Detroit about the Brown decision. “They pointed out that, in 1954, Brown was a beginning. We can be proud of the progress our society has made while recognizing that we have not yet arrived, that 50 years is too brief a span to undo centuries of deliberate subjugation, of withholding civil liberties based on cultural or racial heritage.”
Archer notes that in spite of the delay in realizing Brown’s goals, “It is only because of Brown that we now assume that equal access and treatment are our birthright. Today’s students expect racial equality in all walks of life with a casualness that, prior to Brown, would not have been imaginable. By raising our expectations, Brown has lifted the bar, measuring success that much higher.”
Archer’s remarks are scheduled at the end of a series of lectures on “Brown v. Board of Education and its Aftermath,” at the campus of Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass., on Friday, April 16. More information about the series, and about the Harvard celebration, is available at http://www.law.harvard.edu/news.
The American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership association in the world. With more than 400,000 members, the ABA provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public.