Black History Month and Brown at 50
This February, Black History Month; marks the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that the concept of “separate but equal” was inadequate and unconstitutional and that segregation could not stand.
Though the decision was limited to public education, holding that “separate but equal” facilities deprived minorities of equal educational opportunities, impugned them with a badge of inferiority and perpetuated a second class of citizens, it was the first brick from the wall of state-sanctioned segregation.
Lectures and panels about Brown v. Board will be held throughout the month, as well as performances and panels celebrating cultural aspects of black history. The celebration will conclude with a trip to the Museum of African American History in Detroit on March 6.
“Oberlin was the first college to educate students interracially. I think the anniversary has special resonance for this reason.”
Goldsmith also said the anniversary was important for reflection on segregation throughout history.
“Brown was largely argued on integrational principles that no longer have the same degree of currency.”
Afrikan Heritage House Faculty-in-Residence and chair of the Black History Month committee James Ochwa-Echel said that reflecting on Brown is especially important to foster discussion about racial equality and diversity in education today.
Ochwa-Echel questioned whether integrating schools was enough to offer equal educational opportunities.
“Why is the curriculum used in most schools Anglo-Saxon oriented and emphasizes white domination? A truly integrated school system should also mean an integrated curriculum which accepts and respects the differences between various multi-ethnic groups in the United States.”
Ochwa-Echel said the month was an important opportunity to reevaluate Oberlin as a college that fosters diversity.
“I believe the college promised some years ago to admit 100 black students per academic year. Is that being done? If not, why not? Although ‘enough’ is in the eye of the beholder, are enough black faculty members being recruited? Secondly, how has the college addressed the notion of ‘cultural deprivation’ for African Americans that is, the lack of appreciating and respecting black cultural beliefs let alone including them in the curriculum?”
Ochwa-Echel hopes that the panel discussion on Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. will be a good opportunity to address progress since Brown and discuss a future vision for diversity, especially with regards to Oberlin. Panelists include African American Studies Professor Booker Peek, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Secure Net Solutions Dawn Alexander, OC ’82, Oberlin College Trustee Michael Lythcott, OC ’70, and President Nancy Dye.
The film “Road to Brown” will be shown in Afrikan Heritage House-Lord Lounge at 7 p.m. on Feb 18. Law Professor Dr. Leone Green will speak more about societal changes since Brown on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. History Professor Robert A. Hill will speak on the origins of the Harlem Renaissance on Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.
This year’s Black History Month Celebration is sponsored by the African American Studies Department, the Afrikan Heritage House, the Multicultural Resource Center, the Dean of Students, the Dean of Arts and Sciences, the President’s Office and the Alumni Office.