On May 17, 2018, the Thurgood Marshall Institute (TMI) of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) had the distinct pleasure of hosting “Brown at 64”— LDF’s annual event commemorating the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. That landmark ruling, decided on May 17, 1954, was worthy of additional reflection this year, as 2018 also marks the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 14th Amendment. It was in Brown that the Supreme Court breathed new life into the 14th Amendment by declaring that “separate-but-equal” schools violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.
The evening offered a tribute to Linda Brown Thompson, who was one of the young students at the heart of LDF’s landmark case. Brown Thompson was born on February 20, 1943, in Topeka, Kansas. LDF represented Rev. Oliver L. Brown, on behalf of Linda, in a lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education. LDF proudly represented Rev. Brown and a cadre of 12 families from South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia who had been suffering similar injustices. Their lawsuits were consolidated into what is now known as Brown v. Board of Education.
To help us consider Brown’s legacy and the challenges that still remain in American education today, we were joined by Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times Magazine, an award-winning writer on the pressing issues at the intersection of race and education. Nikole and Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel, held a candid conversation about what the ruling in Brown means today—and how we can keep its promise alive for generations to come.
Our “Brown at 64” event is also part of TMI’s broader efforts this year to raise public awareness about the importance of the 14th Amendment to American democracy and our nation’s ongoing struggle to become a more perfect Union. Please stay tuned for more announcements about what we’ll do for the rest of this year to keep this critical conversation alive.