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Date: Oct 18, 2011
Hofstra Hosts Symposium about legacy of 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision
Events include panel of those who were among the first children to break racial barriers in public schools
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY -- The legacy of the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and lingering challenges to equity and diversity in public schools will be the subject of a day-long symposium featuring stories from students who were among the first to break racial barriers.
The symposium, “From Brown (1954) to Brown (1963) and Beyond: The Challenges to Advancing Race Relations in Schools and Society”, is aimed at examining not only the legal, political and policy implications of school desegregation, but also the personal stories of the children who were named plaintiffs in such lawsuits since the Brown decision.
It will be held on Oct. 27, 2011 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Student Center Theater, Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center, North Campus. Registration begins at 9 a.m. The event is sponsored by the Hofstra Cultural Center, the Harry H. Wachtel Distinguished Teaching Professorship, the New Opportunities at Hofstra (NOAH) Program and Claflin University in South Carolina, which participates in a faculty-student exchange program with Hofstra. For more information about the symposium schedule, or to register, contact the Hofstra Cultural Center at 516-463-5669 or click here.
Among the day’s events is a 7 p.m. Town Hall meeting in which community and education activists, including Hempstead Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby and Julius and Joysetta Pearse, co-founders of the African Atlantic Genealogical Society, will explore efforts to close racial, ethnic and socio-economic achievement gaps in public schools. The Town Hall event is free and open to the public, and symposium organizers in particular are urging local school officials to attend and share their thoughts and experiences.
The symposium will begin with an examination of the Brown decision, and whether desegregation efforts in the five decades since have succeeded, by a panel featuring two professors from Hofstra’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law, Eric Freedman and John DeWitt Gregory.
Dr. Millicent E. Brown, a history professor at Claflin University will lead an afternoon panel of speakers who, as children, were named plaintiffs in post-Brown desegregation lawsuits. Brown, who was a visiting professor at Hofstra in 2010-11 academic year, was a seventh-grader in Charleston, South Carolina when she became the named plaintiff in a lawsuit decided in 1963.
The symposium was inspired in part by Brown’s project, called “Somebody Had to Do It: Voices of Desegregation Pioneers”, to create a database of so-called ‘first children’ and preserve their stories.
“Virtually every community had its first child, but people got lost, names got lost and there’s been far too little emphasis on the lives of the children who were first,” Brown said. “This was not some educational theory for them. So we started with the idea that we needed to recognize the sacrifice these children have made and the impact it has had on their lives.”
Following the panel about “first children”, several documentaries on race and equity in education will be screened, including a feature called “A Tale of Two Schools: Race and Racism on Long Island” that will be introduced by Elaine Gross, president of ERASE Racism, the regional public policy advocacy group that produced the film.
Several related events will be held in the two days preceding the Oct. 27, symposium, including an invitation-only conference on Oct. 25, 2011 in which local students from Hempstead, Uniondale, Garden City, Malverne, Huntington and Levittown will share their perspectives on the role race and ethnicity play in their school experiences.
History Professor and symposium co-organizer Michael D’Innocenzo, the Harry H. Wachtel Distinguished Teaching Professor for the Study of Non-Violent Social Change, will be among those guiding discussions among the local schoolchildren, who will come up with their own proposals to improve school diversity and equity.
“Overall every one of these events is about inclusion, fairness and equity, but there are so many dimensions to it,” said D’Innocenzo. “We will be looking at where we’ve been, where we are and what else needs to be done.”
Hofstra University is a dynamic private institution where students can choose from more than 150 undergraduate and 160 graduate programs in liberal arts and sciences, business, communication, education and allied health services and honor studies, as well as a School of Law and the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.