Fifty years ago, Dr. Millicent E. Brown, Claflin University professor, stood at the forefront of a case that would lead to the desegregation of all public schools in South Carolina. On Wednesday, Sept. 4, Dr. Brown and a distinguished group of panelists will examine the impact, process and progress of the state’s desegregation efforts in the symposium “From Brown (1954) to Brown (1963) and Beyond: Achieving Educational Equity in South Carolina.”
The symposium will be held in the Grace Thomas Kennedy Auditorium at Claflin University in partnership with the College of Charleston's Center for Partnerships for Improvements in Education (CPIE) and the South Carolina Humanities Council. A series of panel discussions will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will be broadcast to 10 off-site locations, including the College of Charleston, South Carolina State University, Voorhees College, Savannah State University, Clemson University and Richland School District II.
The symposium commemorates the 50th anniversary of court-ordered school desegregation in South Carolina. Dr. Brown was the chief plaintiff in Millicent E. Brown et al. vs. Charleston County School Board District 20 in 1963. The court ruled that Rivers High School – and therefore all South Carolina public schools – must integrate to comply with the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education decision. She was one of two African-Americans to first attend Rivers High.
“The further we move away in time from the events of mid-20th century demands for full citizenship rights, the more simplistic our understanding becomes, and many of the details of struggle and protest are confused and sanitized,” Brown said. “This symposium will attempt to hold purposeful conversations about what led up to the events of court-imposed school desegregation, what those experiences did to and for the children involved and what have been the consequences of those early actions.”
The panel discussions will explore the legal and political history of statewide desegregation in “What We Wanted”; feature narratives from desegregation pioneers throughout South Carolina in “What We Got”; discuss post-desegregation educational responses, policies and programs in “What We Tried”; and examine the continuing challenges to equity in education and innovative approaches for the present and future in “What Is Possible.” Comments and questions will be entertained following each panel session.
“We will attempt to decipher how realistic and sincere the efforts were by those in charge to dismantle the dual, segregated and unfair system, and, ultimately, what are lessons learned for ongoing policies and innovations to provide real equity in education for all children in public schools,” Brown said.
The symposium is also supported by Brown’s research project at Claflin titled “Somebody Had to Do It,” which gathers stories of the first African-American children to integrate public school systems. Panelists will include some of these “First Children” as well as various professors and historians familiar with state and national desegregation efforts.
The symposium is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Dr. Brown at 803-535-5688 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
8:45 a.m. – Convene
PANEL 1:“What We Wanted”: Legal and Political History of Statewide Desegregation
Moderator: Azikiwe Zik Chandler (College of Charleston Education Graduate Student)
Panelists: Derek Black (University of South Carolina School of Law) and Minerva T. King (Original plaintiff, Brown, et al. v. District 20)
10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m.
PANEL 2: “What We Got”: Narratives of “First Children,” Desegregation Pioneers Throughout the State
Moderator: Alvin Keyes (North Carolina A&T University, Professor of Psychology)
Panelists: Tyrone Dash (Orangeburg), Oveta Glover (Charleston), Emily DeQuincey Newman (Columbia), Winston Wingo (Spartanburg) Elaine Whittenburg Boyce (Greenville)
1:00 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
PANEL 3:“What We Tried”: Post-Desegregation Educational Responses, Policies and Programs (circa 1970-1990)
Moderator: Orville Vernon Burton (Clemson University)
Panelists: Barbara Dilligard (Burke H.S. Foundation), Montez Martin (Community Education advocate), Ron McWhirt (former Charleston County Superintendent of Education), James L. Solomon (former State Department of Education Administrator, former Sumter School Board member)
2:30 p.m.-3:45 p.m.
PANEL 4: “What Is Possible”: Continuing Challenges to Equity in Education and Innovative Approaches for the Present and Future
Moderator: Courtney Howard (College of Charleston Center for Partnerships to Improve Education)
Panelists: Cecelia Gordon Rogers (Principal, Charleston Development Academy), Dave Dennis, J.D. (The Algebra Project), Dr. Nancy McGinley (Charleston County Superintendent of Education)