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Mapping the Movement: Fulfilling the promise of Brown v. Board of Education

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The year 1954 brought about a monumental shift in the education landscape across the United States. The Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education established racial segregation in public schools as unconstitutional, contrasting a previous court decision that enabled “separate but equal” institutions.

May 17, 2024 marked the 70th anniversary of the landmark decision. Given this historic moment, the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity (Flood Center) held their “Mapping the Movement” (MTM) convening. Here is how the network of education advocates are focusing on fulfilling the promise of Brown v. Board

Background of Mapping the Movement

The Flood Center began the MTM gatherings in February 2023. The meetings allow opportunity for action planning and resource sharing. Educators, nonprofit leaders, school administrators, and many other educational stakeholders come together to strategize in alignment with the following priorities:

The Flood Center also spotlights student voices at each convening. At the most recent MTM on May 15th, two students from Orange County Schools attended.

Aniya McRae is the current Youth Poet Laureate for Orange County Schools, and Guadalupe Luna Rojas is the 2023 Cedar Ridge High Youth Poet Laureate. Together, they showcased the power of storytelling through poetry.

Since the launch, the MTM network has grown to more than 100 organizations, exceeding 500 individuals. Additionally, 31 partnerships have been reported with 17 stated to have formed as a direct result of interaction through MTM. As a collective, the movement has distributed their compiled resources at multiple other events to over 2,000 participants.

Historical overview from Dr. Flood

In his keynote message, the Flood Center’s namesake, Dr. Dudley Flood, provided an overview of desegregation in North Carolina public schools. His timeline dated back to the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision that further targeted the rights, protection, and humanity provided to Black people during the period. Dr. Flood chronicled changes, including the aforementioned “separate but equal” precedent set by Plessy v. Ferguson, spanning to 1974 when North Carolina school systems were said to have reached desegregation compliance.

Dr. Flood elaborated on the significance of Brown v. Board and how it informed his work in North Carolina. For a decade following the ruling, Dr. Flood and his late colleague, Gene Causby, were tasked with traveling the state to support the desegregation of North Carolina’s public schools.

Dr. Flood said the state “made gradual improvement,” following Brown v. Board. However, with the changes that he has witnessed, Dr. Flood said, “I’m fearful that we may be almost where we were, if not more so,” in terms of school segregation.

Dr. Dudley Flood speaking at the Dudley Flood Center’s mapping the movement convening. Derick Lee/EducationNC

Request from a North Carolina public school graduate

In her opening remarks, the Flood Center’s senior director, Dr. Deanna Townsend-Smith, said, “We don’t need another report.” Instead, she emphasized the need for action in alignment with existing reports.

MTM was established as “a place that builds off of research and policy,” which then “allows policymakers to learn from us that are in the field,” she said. 

Dr. Townsend-Smith spoke about her own educational upbringing, referencing a recently published op-ed, “A Request from a NC Public School Graduate.” In it, she reflects on the lack of opportunities and access that she experienced as a public school student. 

For Dr. Townsend-Smith, this brought about a full circle moment given that Robeson was one of five counties involved in the Leandro litigation filed in 1994. Now, the ongoing call for funding via the Leandro Plan to ensure “that all North Carolina children have access to a sound, basic education” remains a priority for Dr. Townsend-Smith and the Flood Center.

For the MTM network, the concerns regarding funding for North Carolina public schools are heightened given the anticipated impact of the N.C. General Assembly’s decision to expand school choice.

In closing, Dr. Townsend-Smith questioned if the will of the General Assembly is to “increase educational opportunity for the 1.5 million children currently attending public schools and at a minimum provide the same funding it granted and proposed for the Opportunity Scholarship expansion.”

“The history of education deprivation must be stopped if we are to ever fulfill the promises guaranteed in Brown v. Board of Education and protected in North Carolina’s constitution,” she said.

Resources and the Color of Education

Dr. Townsend-Smith shared the following resources with the network, relating to Brown v. Board, Leandro, and school desegregation:

Poverty & Race Brown @ 70
Integrated Schools Podcast
WestEd’s action plan for North Carolina
Flood Center’s North Carolina School Desegregation & Resegregation Timeline

Additionally, the Flood Center shared that their Color of Education Summit is scheduled for Sept. 27-28, 2024 in Raleigh. All presentation proposals must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on June 30. Click here to access more information about submission guidelines.

Derick Lee

Derick Lee is a regional storyteller for EdNC.