Law School Hosts Symposium on Brown’s Promise of Equality: 65 Years in the Making

The Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law at The University of Alabama hosted a symposium Friday, March 29, that explored Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark school desegregation case.

“Sixty-five years ago, the Supreme Court delivered an opinion that promised an end to racial segregation in the education system,” said Josh Polk, editor-in-chief of the Alabama Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Law Review. “Though we have made great strides in the intervening time, much progress is yet to be made.”

During the symposium on Brown’s Promise of Equality: 65 Years in the Marking, legal scholars and experts discussed racial segregation and diversity in Alabama’s public and private schools.

Jonathan Glater, Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said that the vestiges of racism remain today. Schools, he said, are increasingly segregated by race, and the harms of discrimination persist.

“To ask whether Brown fulfilled its promise may ultimately be an unfair question, for scholars over the past decades have identified myriad ways in which a person’s racial identity affects life experiences, even health,” he said.

Bryan Mann, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership, Policy, & Technology Studies at The University of Alabama, shared some of the results of his study of contemporary enrollment patterns in Alabama. The findings reveal that counties with districts still under court-ordered desegregation have begun limiting the trends of re-segregation from the 1990s and 20002, while those released from court orders have not.

Erica Frankenberg, Associate Professor of Education and Demography at Pennsylvania State University, provided the keynote address on the impact and limits of implementing Brown.

She approached the legacy of Brown through the lens of Alabama’s largest school district, Mobile County. It was one of the first counties to desegregate after the Brown decision, but later resisted. Professor Frankenberg analyzed 20 years of data and showed how re-segregation occurred in Mobile County.

“Political and demographic trends in Mobile County’s schools since 1997 illustrate the challenges of addressing school segregation in our contemporary era despite increasing social science evidence of the benefits of integration for students and our society.”

The Alabama Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Law Review sponsored the symposium.