Statement on 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education Decision
D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic
Leader Tom Daschle, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Elijah Cummings
(D-MD), Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and other Members of Congress
joined special guests at an event commemorating the 50th anniversary
of Brown v. Board of Education today. Below are Pelosis remarks:
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on the anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision,
Democratic Leader, I have the privilege of leading some of the finest
public servants our country has ever seen. I proudly lead a very
diverse Democratic Caucus in the Congress of the United States,
and it reflects the beauty of Americas diversity and thus,
the hope of the Brown decision: 39 African Americans, of which Mr.
Cummings is the distinguished Chair; 20 Hispanics; an active Asian
American and Pacific Islander Caucus; a large Womens Caucus;
openly gay people. It represents America, this Caucus does.
as the Leader to celebrate not only the ruling from the pages of
history, but a challenge to the conscience as a people that will
forever shape the destiny of our nation. When the Supreme Court
declared in 1954 that separate but equal has no place
in our society, it empowered people of principle all over this land.
to join Chairman Cummings in quoting the Chief Justice at the time,
Earl Warren. He managed to convince other justices to pass a unanimous
decision, and he said, in defining separate but equal: To
separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely
because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their
status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in
a way unlikely ever to be undone. How wise he was, how great
he was, how fortunate for our country that we undid that grave injustice.
Cummings and I hail from Baltimore, and when the decision came down,
my father was the mayor of Baltimore. When Brown was announced,
my father recognized the moral imperative of the decision and immediately
issued a statement which said: This is the law of the land
. . . it will be enforced in Baltimore City.
board of Baltimore City called for immediate integration. This was
an autonomous school board, and I especially want to recognize a
gentleman named Walter Sondheim, who was one of the leaders who
enabled the school board to act with quick dispatch. The high schools
were integrated within the week.
simple. No debate. No discussion. No questions. The law of the land
would be enforced.
make history. As we honor the ruling itself, we also honor the pioneers
who made it possible. The brilliant NAACP legal team, including
Charles Hamilton Houston; Thurgood Marshall; Robert L. Carter; Kenneth
B. Clark. In addition, I want to acknowledge Judge Constance Motley.
And the courageous, 7-year old Linda Brown, her proud parents, and
the nearly 200 plaintiffs from around the country. They broke the
shackles of Jim Crow by making Brown a reality.
the leaders of our time who carry on their work: Wade Henderson
of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Hilary Shelton, NAACP
Director of the Washington National Office, Marissa Demeo of MALDEF,
Karen Narasoky of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium,
and countless souls who carry on the fight for equality and justice.
such as this, we must do more than remember the past. As our theme
today challenges us, we must remember and continue Fulfilling
decision helped ignite a movement that within a decade led to the
largest demonstration for social justice in American history - the
1963 March on Washington. And on that day, Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. spoke of the fierce urgency of now. Now
he said, is the time to make justice a reality for all Gods
years later, Democrats and hopefully all of us, still believe in
the fierce urgency of now. We believe that now, indeed
we are overdue, now is the time to stand up for poor and minority
students who are concentrated in schools that fail to meet their
that now is the time to take solid, bold actions - such as the bill
Congressman Chaka Fattah will discuss today - not empty gestures
or gimmicks that undermine public education and offer false hope.
believe that now is the time to fund the No Child Left Behind Act
- Congressman George Miller will speak to that - to give schools
the resources they need to improve performance, and to ensure that
lack of resources does not close the door to higher education.
education for all - this is the unfinished business of our nation.
So let us fulfill the promise of Brown and build one America, of
equality and opportunity, where every child realizes their God-given
potential. And let us resolve to finally make justice a reality
for all Gods children.
the heroes of Brown. God bless America."