Claflin University Associate Professor of History and Sociology Dr. Millicent Brown, standing right, and her junior research assistant Ashley Simmons, left, recently went to Hofstra University for a symposium Brown helped to organize.
Associate Professor of History and Sociology Dr. Millicent Brown wonders often if the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education
decision she helped to enforce as a child in the 1960s has truly created the atmosphere of education equality it espoused in today's world.
It was a topic of discussion she brought forth as one of the leaders of a symposium in October at Hofstra University titled “From Brown (1954) to Brown (1963) and Beyond: The Challenges of Advancing Race Relations in Schools and Society”.
The symposium brought together scholars from across the nation and children from Long Island area schools to discuss the implications Brown has made on the subject of race in American society.
“It primarily was geared toward getting contemporary students to think about progress and what roles does play in their lives,” Brown said of the symposium, which Claflin presented in cooperation with the Hofstra Cultural Center.
Growing up as a child, Brown herself was an integral force in the desegregation narrative of South Carolina. Following Brown, many states subverted or outright ignored the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling. Brown was the chief plaintiff in the case Millicent E. Brown et. al vs. Charleston County School Board District 20 in 1963. The court ruled that Rivers High School – and therefore all S.C. public schools – must integrate to comply with the original Brown ruling. She was one of the first two African-American children to attend Rivers High.
The symposium discussed the impact both Brown decisions have had on the educational system.
Brown led several panel discussions at the event, which she helped to organize in collaboration with Hofstra officials. That week, she also served on panels with former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Ed Rollins, a Republican consultant who was the campaign manager for the late President Ronald Reagan, as part of that institution's annual discussion week which addressed a variety of topics. The cable news network C-SPAN also covered portions of From Brown to Brown.
Brown was first asked about participating in a symposium during her stint as a visiting professor this spring with a faculty exchange program Claflin established with Long Island institution. For the past several years Brown has started a project titled “Somebody Had to Do It”, which is attempting to gather stories of the first African-American children to integrate the school system in the 1960s.
At the conference, Brown and others discussed how there is still much work to be done to make things truly equal in the education system. For example, Brown notes that 75 percent of U.S. teachers are white females while only a small percentage of African-American males occupy the classroom. She also points out black males are disproportionately more likely to be incarcerated or drop out.
“We stressed at the symposium the fact that in the aftermath of Brown public schools were transformed,” said Brown. She said many whites left neighborhoods in the wake of integration. This created a negative impact on equal school funding which Brown says still persists to this day.
Ashley Simmons, a sophomore politics and justice studies major from Jacksonville, Florida, has served as Brown's research assistant for “Somebody Had to Do It”. She accompanied Brown to Hofstra for the symposium, and said the experience was great.