Obama marks 60th anniversary of landmark desegregation ruling

WASHINGTON Fri May 16, 2014 7:49pm EDT

1 of 4. U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (C) meets with high school students participating in the Wichita State University GEAR UP program as part of her Reach Higher initiative in Topeka, Kansas May 16, 2014. (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION POLITICS)

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Friday commemorated the 60th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling that outlawed racial segregation in U.S. schools and bolstered the civil rights movement that paved the way for Obama to become the first African-American president.

The unanimous May 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education grew out of a lawsuit filed by the parents of children who attended segregated schools in Topeka, Kansas. The court overturned the doctrine of "separate but equal" that allowed communities and businesses to maintain separate facilities for whites and blacks.

Despite the ruling, many communities resisted school desegregation. In the south, some officials shut schools down rather than integrate them.

The civil rights movement unfolded over many years and finally scored landmark victories in the mid-1960s, after mass protests caught the attention of the country and Congress passed legislation guaranteeing voting and civil rights.

"As we commemorate this historic anniversary, we recommit ourselves to the long struggle to stamp out bigotry and racism in all their forms," Obama said in a statement.

"And we remember that change did not come overnight - that it took many years and a nationwide movement to fully realize the dream of civil rights for all of God's children," he added.

As the first U.S. president of African ancestry, Obama, who was born years after the court decision, is himself seen as a milestone on the path toward racial equality in the United States.

The president met at the White House with the families and plaintiffs in the historic case, along with surviving attorneys Jack Greenberg and William Coleman and members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Legal Defense Fund. The meeting was closed to the media.

The president's wife, Michelle, visited the formerly all-black Monroe School in Topeka, where the children whose families filed the lawsuit were students, on Friday.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by David Gregorio)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (6)
USAPragmatist wrote:
WOW and the first two comments show EXACTLY why we needed the Civil Rights Act and why the SCOTUS decision to weaken it was terrible.

May 16, 2014 12:20am EDT  --  Report as abuse
REnninga wrote:
How sad and pathetic it is that on this 60th anniversary of the 9-0 unanimous decision of the US Supreme Court, rejecting the racist doctrine of so-called “Separate but equal” segregation of the races in America, the first two comments following this news story acknowledging this great American milestone in civil rights, and equal rights and protections for all … were blatantly racist comments. Nauseating.

America has come a very long way since 1964. But as these first two comments demonstrate, we still have a very long way to go. Some in America will never in their lifetimes give up there hateful bigotries, nor address their ignorance. Perhaps the generation which succeeds them will be much more enlightened, and evolved.

May 17, 2014 1:54am EDT  --  Report as abuse
4825 wrote:
If memory serves me correct it was the Republicans that voted for this law by a larger percentage than the democrats. The numbers were:

Democratic Party: for-against   (63–37%)
Republican Party: for-against   (80–20%)

Almost 4 out of every 10 democrats in 1964 did not want this law to pass compared to 2 out of every 10 Republicans. Doubt you would hear these facts from anyone on the democrat side. Ain’t it funny how the democrats want everyone to believe that it is republicans that are racist? Looking back at the votes it appears the opposite is true.

May 17, 2014 8:23am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus