Sixty years ago, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling that banned racial segregation in schools. But the landmark 1954 decision known as “Brown Versus Board of Education” has failed to tackle the legacy of education and economic segregation in real terms. CCTV’s Washington correspondent Daniel Ryntjes reports.
60 Years Anniversary of Brown Versus Board of EducationSixty years ago, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling that banned racial segregation in schools. But the landmark 1954 decision known as "Brown Versus Board of Education" has failed to tackle the legacy of education and economic segregation in real terms. CCTV’s Washington correspondent Daniel Ryntjes reports.
Founded in 1870, just after the abolition of slavery, Dunbar High School in Washington, DC, was the nation’s first for African-American students.
Many great black politicians, artists, sports stars, musicians and scientists got their start here. 1952 graduate Ronald Crockett remembers the hard work.
Ronald Crockett, Co-chair of Dunbar High School Alumni Association, says: “I had to study for the first time in my life, to keep up and the teachers expected you to do well. I was living in public housing. I certainly wasn’t part of the elite, but Dunbar changed all of that.”
In 1954, The Supreme Court ended the legal basis for segregated schooling, providing hope for a more integrated school system. And today at Dunbar, 97 percent of the students are black.
Crystal Pendergast, a 16-year-old student says: “It’s not diverse. I don’t think it’s diverse. It’s mainly black. But it would be nice to see other faces and like other cultures around me, so I could learn more about them.”
Even with its storied history of educating some of the nation’s brightest minds, the modern Dunbar mirrors the struggle of America to overcome the legacy of racial inequality.
Phil Portlock, Graduate of 1959, says: “I think that some of the idea was that the races would come together. I think that that would have been a wonderful thing, but over and above that was the sharing, equally of the resources, that is the key.”
Dunbar’s academic standards slipped as affluent families, white and black, retreated from cities to suburban enclaves where schools were better funded.
But Nergal Lowery, 18-year-old student, says: “No, I don’t think that we have come far enough. And I do still believe that there are things that can happen, especially with the academics. I know right now that my peers, some of them are still struggling in some of the areas and I know that things could be done a little better to help prepare them.”
Dunbar is fighting back. This year it’s opened a state-of-the-art school building, hoping to attract back some of the more affluent and activist parents attracted to urban living.
Ronald Crockett, Co-chair, Dunbar High School Alumni Association, says: “Neighborhoods are gentrified, people are starting to select schools and forcing them to be better, they’re getting involved.”
But in Washington D.C. and nationwide the disparities in academic achievement between blacks and whites remain stark, posing a continuing challenge to achieving the promise of the Supreme Court’s sixty-year-old ruling.
For more now on how much – and how little – has changed since the Court’s landmark decision, CCTV’s Susan Roberts is joined by Brian Dooley, director at Human Rights First.