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Howard University to Host Event Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Landmark Brown v. Board of Education Decision

Brown v Board of Education 70 year anniversary event celebration taking place on May 17, 2024 at the Howard University School of Law campus in Van Ness NW

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, the landmark ruling deciding that separating children in public schools based on race was unconstitutional. The decision ended legalized racial segregation in schools, overruling the “separate but equal” finding from the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896. 

While the Brown case is a historic event taught and shared through the generations, much remains unknown about the case, according to Lisa Crooms-Robinson, interim dean of the Howard University School of Law, who hopes that changes following a special event hosted by the University on Thursday, May 16. 

Crooms-Robinson will join an impressive group of individuals for “70 Years: Examining the Legal Precedent of Brown v. Board of Education,” a panel discussion hosted by the University’s School of Education and School of Law at the law school campus’ Honorable Damon J. Keith Moot Courtroom, beginning at 5 p.m. 

“The impact of the case can’t be overstated,” said Crooms-Robinson (B.A. ’84).  “Even though (Brown) struck down racial segregation in public schools, the impact goes beyond education because of the impact that it has on the Plessy decision. The case gave a different understanding of constitutional equality than what had been the standard up until that point.” 

Since 1993, Dean Crooms-Robinson has taught Constitutional Law, Gender and the Law, International Human Rights Law and Supreme Court Jurisprudence at the law school.

She is excited about the event, which will also feature Terrence Roberts and Elizabeth Eckford, two students who were a part of the Little Rock Nine, the group of Black students who desegregated Little Rock, Arkansas’ Central High School in 1957; as well as Adrienne Jennings Bennett, who was a plaintiff in Bolling v. Sharpe, another landmark 1954 Supreme Court case where parents from Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood sued to integrate John Philip Sousa Junior High School. Originally argued in December 1952, the Bolling case was reargued the following year with the decision made on the same day as Brown. 

This event, which also will include Leslie Fenwick, Ph.D., dean emerita of the School of Education, and Bernadine Futrell, Ph.D., deputy assistant secretary with the U.S. Department of Education, will be moderated by Crooms-Robinson, School of Education Dean Dawn Williams, Ph.D.; and Ivory Toldson, Ph.D., a professor of counseling psychology here at Howard University and national director of Education Innovation and Research for the NAACP. 

It is only appropriate that Howard University host such an event, considering the “strong ties it has to the Brown case” and the advocacy of its students and faculty in the years leading up to Brown, Crooms-Robinson said. 

“The legal minds behind both Brown and Bolling are forever connected to Howard University’s history, from former law school deans Charles Hamilton Houston and James Nabrit to law school alumni Thurgood Marshall and George E.C. Hayes, their solid knowledge of the law advanced opportunities for Black people to fully access their rights,” Crooms-Robinson said. 

“Brown changed the landscape of American public education and the social contract between Black and white Americans,” said Fenwick, who, in addition to Thursday’s event, will deliver the keynote at the 70th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education program co-sponsored by the NAACP and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on Friday, May 17. 

Fenwick, a renowned voice in education and author of the best-selling book, “Jim Crow’s Pink Slip,” believes events like these will educate younger generations about the important work that took place, as well as the work that remains for actualizing true equality for all. 

“It is my hope that those who attend these events walk away with a greater understanding of our history,” Fenwick said. “I want people to feel empowered to continue calling for educational justice because understanding your history will help shape a better future.”