Organizers plan to discuss cases before Brown vs. Board of Education for 67th anniversary

Updated: May. 16, 2021 at 7:54 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -Monday marks the 67th anniversary of the U.S Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education decision.

For the 67th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, organizers are looking at what took place before the 1954 supreme court decision.

“Looking at these important landmark cases that emerge before brown really gives us the context for understanding brown,” Dean and Professor of Law at Washburn University, Carla Pratt said.

“The struggle for racial justice didn’t begin with Brown and, so I think it was Cheryl’s idea to really look back to the Dred Scott decision where the US Supreme Court said that African-Americans were not intended to be citizens in the original U.S. Constitution, and then look after the civil war after the reconstruction amendments get added to the constitution to the decision in Plessy,” Pratt explained.

This year’s commemoration will include a virtual discussion with descendants of those involved in the 1857 Dred Scott vs. Sandford decision, and the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson case.

“I really think it’s going to be interesting to hear their perspective on the cases and on Brown as well and. it’s going to be an opportunity to talk about the evolution of racial justice in the U.S. and the work that still remains to be done,” Pratt said.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Culture Heritage Action Fund is partnering with the Brown Foundation, Shawnee County Historical Society, and Washburn University Law School for a discussion they hope expands the narrative.

“If you google Homer Plessy you will get an image that looks like a white man and you’ll say well he looks white, but in Louisiana, at the time someone with one-eighth African ancestry was known as an octoroon and was still considered negro for purposes of racial segregation,” Pratt explained.

“So Homer Plessy had to sit in the car for African-Americans and he was not allowed to sit on the train in the car with white Americans. So, his defiance of that rule of law was one that was orchestrated by African-Americans in the community who wanted to challenge segregation under the principle of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment,” Pratt added. “He could’ve been lynched, he could’ve been castrated, and so it was a lot of bravery and courage for him to volunteer to be the person to challenge and then to bring the legal claim.”

In addition to discussing the previous cases, the virtual session will also take an in-depth look at Brown vs. Board of Education.

“The lawyers who filed the case of Brown vs. Board of Education here in Topeka actually were educated here at Washburn University School of Law and that’s a piece of history that we’re very proud of. We’ve been building courageous lawyers since 1903,” Pratt said.

Carla Pratt says she’s where she is today, because of that courage.

“I am the first African-American to serve as dean here at Washburn University School of Law and I know that that wouldn’t be possible, but for our alumni who had the courage to represent 13 plaintiffs here in Topeka to bring the challenge to racial segregation and public education and some very very mindful of their contribution to american jurisprudence and to what we enjoy today which is an integrated at education.”

The “Before Brown vs. Board” virtual event will be at 6 P.M. on Monday. You can register for the event here.

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