Vanderbilt to host Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commemorative Series

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ñ Vanderbilt University will host a series of public lectures throughout the 2003-04 academic year to mark the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Michael Klarman, James Monroe Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia, launches the series on Wednesday, Oct. 8, with "Brown v. Board of Education: Law or Politics?" Klarman’s lecture begins at 4:15 p.m. in the Moore Room at Vanderbilt University Law School. The event is free and open to the public.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, issued on May 17, 1954, forever changed race relations in the United States. With the decision, the Supreme Court declared "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," and effectively denied the legal basis for segregation in Kansas and 20 other states.

Klarman’s lecture will analyze the justices’ internal deliberations in Brown v. Board of Education, based on their conference notes, with the goal of explaining why they found the ruling such a difficult one to make. He will also discuss how a closely divided court became unanimous against segregation at a time when the nation was divided down the middle.

"This landmark decision prompted a national debate in our country that continues to this day," said Mona Frederick, executive director of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt, which is coordinating the series. "Our University-wide program will offer opportunities to reexamine the place of this decision in our history, as well as opportunities to reflect upon the future of public education in our nation."

The Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commemorative Series will continue throughout the academic year with Gary Orfield, professor of education and social policy at Harvard University, on Nov. 13; Juan Williams, senior correspondent for National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, on Jan. 20, 2004 (in conjunction with Vanderbilt’s 2004 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Series); Judge Damon Keith of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on April 1, 2004 (in conjunction with Vanderbilt’s Chancellor’s Lecture Series); and a conference looking at the implications of the Brown v. Board decision sponsored by Vanderbilt’s Peabody College on April 2, 2004.

For more information, contact the Robert Penn Warren Center at (615) 343-6060 or visit

Media Contact: Kara Furlong, (615) 322-NEWS

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