CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The landmark Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision will soon mark its 50th anniversary, on May 17.
But what has been its true legacy? How has it fulfilled, or failed to fulfill, the promises that many once envisioned for greater equality?
Those and other questions will be the focus of a conference April 1-3, "Promises to Keep? Brown v. Board and Equal Educational Opportunity," at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The keynote speaker will be Julian Bond, chairman of the board of the NAACP and a prominent leader in the civil rights movement, speaking on "The Broken Promise of Brown." His address will be at 7:30 p.m. April 2 (Friday) in the auditorium of Smith Memorial Hall, 805 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana.
Participating in the conference as speakers or panelists will be a notable group of about 30 academics, judges, lawyers and policy makers, who will discuss numerous issues related to the court decision, which ended legal segregation in public schools.
With the exception of Bond's speech and a reception beforehand, the conference will be in the auditorium at the College of Law Building, 504 E. Pennsylvania Ave., Champaign.
Others giving talks during the conference:
• Gary Orfield, co-director of The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, who will open the conference at noon April 1 (Thursday) with "Segregation Issues Fifty Years After Brown."
• Julius Chambers, a lawyer who has litigated a series of landmark civil rights cases, speaking at 8 p.m. April 1.
• Katarina Tomasevski, special rapporteur on the right to education of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, speaking at 10:15 a.m. April 3 (Saturday).
• Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama, D-Chicago, who will close the conference at 12:30 p.m. April 3, speaking on "Brown's Next Fifty Years."
Among others participating will be Neville Alexander, who was imprisoned for a decade with Nelson Mandela, and Joseph DeLaine Jr., whose father played a central role in the first case to challenge segregated education in the South.
A full list of participants, with biographical information, can be found online.
Panels over the three days will deal with issues such as the re-segregation of schools, diversity, voucher programs, school choice, charter schools, affirmative action, litigation in state courts over educational funding, same-race and same-sex schools, and the global implications of the Brown decision.
The conference also will feature a moot court competition at 4 p.m. on April 1, presided over by Chambers; Judge Boyce Martin, U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, and Judge Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
All conference events are free and open to the public, though space will be very limited. Those interested in attending are encouraged to register at the conference Web site.
The conference is co-sponsored by the colleges of Education and Law, and is part of the yearlong Brown v. Board of Education Jubilee Commemoration on the Urbana campus.