Biden commemorates Brown v. Board of Education anniversary with White House meeting

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday will meet with family members of the plaintiffs in the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed racial segregation in American public schools.

Biden, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, will commemorate 70 years since the ruling took place at a meeting with a key player and relatives of the plaintiffs in the White House Oval Office.

The anniversary is set against a backdrop of continuing racial segregation across the country and educational inequities that impact children of color, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Schools “remain divided along racial, ethnic, and economic lines,” with around 18.5 million children attending schools where 75 percent or more of students were “of a single race or ethnicity,” a 2022 report by the GAO said.

The White House said Biden will meet with Cheryl Brown Henderson, whose father, Oliver Brown, was the lead plaintiff in Brown v. Board, and Adrienne Jennings Bennett, a plaintiff in Boiling v. Sharpe, which was argued at the same time and outlawed segregation of schools in the District of Columbia.

President Biden has made racial equity a priority of his administration. He chose Kamala Harris as his running mate, making her the first Black and Asian American woman to serve as vice president. He nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court, and sought to create a cabinet that reflects the diversity of America.

Biden, who is running against former President Donald Trump, a Republican, in the 2024 race for the White House, still has seen his approval among some Black voters, especially Black men, slip, and his campaign is seeking to shore up their support.

Trump said in a recent Time magazine interview that “there is a definite anti-white feeling” in the United States and his allies favor dismantling corporate and government programs to combat racism and increase diversity.

The Supreme Court heard Brown v. Board, which was consolidated with four other cases from the District of Columbia, South Carolina, Virginia and Delaware, twice: once in June 1953 and again in December 1954, with Earl Warren as chief justice.

In a unanimous May 14, 1954, decision, the court ruled racial segregation was a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

“In the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place,” Warren wrote.

Biden will hold a series of events related to the Brown v. Board anniversary, including remarks at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on Friday and a commencement address at Morehouse College, a historically Black men’s liberal arts college, in Atlanta on Sunday.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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