April 19, 2004 Library of Congress Exhibition Marking 50th Anniversary of Brown V. Board of Education Opens May 13
Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Contact: View the exhibition online.
The Library of Congress will open an exhibition titled "'With an Even Hand:' Brown v. Board at Fifty" on May 13, in the South Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building's Great Hall, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. On view through November 13, the exhibition is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Saturday.
Handed down on May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" was pivotal to the struggle for racial desegregation in the United States. The exhibition, featuring more than 100 items from the Library's collection of books, photographs, political cartoons, manuscripts, maps, music and films, will examine the Supreme Court's decision and related precedent-setting court cases, public response and the aftermath of this profound milestone.
The exhibition title quotes Robert L. Carter, a counsel for the plaintiffs, in his Dec. 9, 1952, oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court. Arguing against the constitutionality of racial segregation in public schools, he said, "It is our position that any legislative or governmental classification must fall with an even hand on all persons similarly situated."
"With an Even Hand" is presented in three sections. Section One examines the court cases leading to the 1954 decision, including the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case, which established the "separate but equal" doctrine in 1896. This section of the exhibition also examines pivotal events such as the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), whose legal arm launched the actions that culminated in the Brown v. Board of Education court cases. Featured in this section is a copy of the 1909 platform adopted by the National Negro Committee, the precursor of the NAACP. Among the "first and immediate steps" listed in the platform is the adoption of the principle "that there be equal educational opportunities for all and in all the States, and that public school expenditure be the same for Negro and white child." Also included is a 1939 memorandum from Thurgood Marshall to Walter White and Arthur B. Spingarn concerning the founding of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Section Two examines the history of the Brown v. Board of Education decision and reaction to the Supreme Court decision. Featured materials include a May 7, 1954, letter from Chief Justice Earl Warren to members of the court; a front page edition of Kansas' The Russell Daily News, May 17, 1954, photographs of Brown lawyers Harold P. Boulware, Thurgood Marshall and Spottswood W. Robinson III at the Supreme Court conferring prior to presenting arguments during Brown v. Board of Education; and of Thurgood Marshall, George E.C. Hayes and James Nabrit walking down the steps of the Supreme Court in 1954. Also featured are manuscripts from Supreme Court justices, including Felix Frankfurter's draft decree in Brown v. Board of Education II (the April 1955 decision that determined the manner in which relief was to be accorded to the plaintiffs). In Brown II, Frankfurter inserted "with all deliberate speed," which had been suggested by Thurgood Marshall, in place of "forthw!ith" as the appropriate measure for implementing the first Brown decision.
Section Three follows the aftermath of the Brown decision and focuses on events such as the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott, the desegregation of Little Rock High School and James Meredith's entry into the University of Mississippi. Featured items include a Sept. 21, 1962, report to President John F. Kennedy from John A. Morsell, assistant to the NAACP executive secretary, requesting the assistance of the federal government in the case of James Meredith; and original artwork, including political cartoons that convey the climate of the nation during this period, such as Bill Mauldin's "Inch by Inch," 1960; Vincent Smith's "First Day of School," 1965; and Herblock's "One Nation, Indivisible," 1977.
In connection with the exhibition, the Library of Congress will present a variety of outreach and educational programs, including educators' institutes and school tours, a film series, symposia, lectures and other presentations. In addition, the Library will sponsor a poster competition among students in grades three through eight in the District of Columbia public schools. Winning designs will be displayed in the exhibition area.
Also on display in the exhibition area will be selected materials from "Voices of Civil Rights," a cooperative effort among the Library of Congress, AARP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights to collect and preserve thousands of personal stories, oral histories, photographs and personal artifacts of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The collection of personal accounts of America's struggle for justice and equality will be housed permanently at the Library of Congress.
The Library houses the most comprehensive civil rights collection the country: the original papers of the organizations that led the fight for civil liberties, such as the NAACP; the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; the National Urban League; the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; the microfilmed records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by Martin Luther King Jr.; the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); and the personal papers of Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Arthur Spingarn, Moorfield Storey, Patricia Roberts Harris, Edward W. Brooke and Joseph Rauh.
Funding for "With an Even Hand" and its programming have been made possible by AARP; Anthony and Beatrice Welters; and AmeriChoice, a UnitedHealth Group Company.