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Living up to the promise of Brown v. Board

May 17 marks the 60th anniversary of the historic Supreme Court ruling that outlawed school segregation. The SPLC’s founder discusses the ways our nation’s progress has stalled.

This Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of one of our nation’s greatest moments – the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board that outlawed school segregation and declared that separate schools are inherently unequal. 

The Brown decision produced a tremendous backlash; Jim Crow did not go easily.

But our country persevered. And though vestiges of Jim Crow discrimination still linger, we’ve made great progress.

I’m deeply saddened, though, to see the many areas where our progress has stalled and where our country is actually reversing course. Today’s opponents don’t often wear white sheets, but they seem equally committed to turning back the clock.

Schools are now becoming more segregated, not less. And minority children are being pushed out of schools and into juvenile lock-ups for trivial infractions with alarming frequency.

All the while, many on the far right are attacking the very idea of our nation providing a free public education for every child.

With your support, we’re fighting to ensure that all children have equal access to a quality public education.

In Florida, for example, we’re challenging a racist education plan that sets lower achievement goals for African-American and Latino children – sending them the devastating message that it’s the color of their skin, not their hard work and perseverance, that determines their success.

Across the Deep South, we’re standing up for minority children who are disproportionately bearing the brunt of outrageous “zero tolerance” discipline policies.

We’re also creating opportunities for children who find the schoolhouse door blocked because of their families’ immigration status.

And, through our renowned Teaching Tolerance project, we’re helping teachers across America create inclusive, nurturing classrooms where equality is not just taught, but lived.

This week, let’s celebrate the Brown decision that has meant so much to our country. But at the same time, let’s recommit ourselves to the job at hand: making sure our nation lives up to its promise.

Please support equal opportunity for all children – and speak up for the dedicated educators in your community who hold our nation’s future in their hands. Your voice can truly make a difference.