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Media advisory: KU experts available to speak about Brown v. Board 60th anniversary

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

LAWRENCE — Several University of Kansas faculty members are available to speak with media about the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that effectively ended school segregation in the United States. The faculty members can comment about the ruling, its legacy in American education, society, law and related topics, as well as discuss collections and documents at KU related to the case that originated in Topeka.

John Rury, professor of educational leadership and policy studies as well as courtesy professor of history, can speak about the history of American education and inequality. Rury has authored several books and journal articles on American education policy and achievement gaps in schools both before and after Brown v. Board. His research has also examined how demographics shifted in American high schools from World War II onward and how, despite the Supreme Court decision, many schools continued to be unequal.

Argun Saatcioglu, associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies as well as courtesy professor of sociology, can speak about social class and racial/ethnic inequality in education and how it is still present 60 years after Brown v. Board. His research has examined the processes and outcomes of desegregation and resegregation in public schools, discrimination in disability categorization and how educational organizations respond to reform pressures. He is currently studying the ill effects of high-stakes accountability pressures on standardized test design and the resulting illusion of proficiency gains under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Richard E. Levy, J.B. Smith Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law, can speak about the legal aspects of the decision and how it continues to resonate in constitutional and education law today. Levy has published extensively on many matters of constitutional law, including racial discrimination, equal protection and the right to education.

Deborah Dandridge is field archivist for KU Libraries’ African American Experience Collection and coordinated the Libraries’ recent symposium “The Legacies & Unfinished Business of BvB, 2.0.” The collection hosts a wealth of documents and materials related to the Brown v. Board decision and the Topeka lawsuit that eventually reached the Supreme Court.

Sarah Goodwin Thiel, head of KU Libraries’ Center for Community & Affiliate Initiatives, can speak about the legacy of Brown v. Board on scholarship. The decision still profoundly influences research in the fields of education, equality and basic human rights. Goodwin Thiel also oversees KU Libraries’ ongoing exhibit “Lasting Impact: Brown v. The Board of Education.”

Shawn Alexander, associate professor of African and African American studies and director of the Langston Hughes Center, is an expert on the civil rights movement that paved the way for the Brown v. Board decision. His book “An Army of Lions: The Struggle for Civil Rights before the NAACP,” looks at civil rights groups at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries that initiated the legal strategy to challenge discrimination through the court system. Alexander is currently working on a history of the NAACP from 1929 to 1945. It was a time when the organization hired a legal team, established a legal defense fund, and designed the strategy that would led to challenging segregated schools through Brown v. Board.

For the past four summers, Alexander has hosted a seminar on “Presidential Politics, Civil Rights and the Road to Brown” for high school teachers throughout the country. The seminar, which is through the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, introduces teachers to Civil Rights era archives in the University of Kansas Libraries, the Truman and Eisenhower presidential libraries and the Brown v. Board National Park Service site.

Randal Maurice Jelks, professor of American studies and African and African-American studies, can speak about efforts to end segregation prior to the Brown case and black communities' responses to the landmark decision. He studies social movements of the 20th century, including the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, and has written two award-winning books, "African Americans in the Furniture City: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Grand Rapids" and "Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography." Mays, a mentor of Martin Luther King Jr., was president of Morehouse College during the Brown decision and was instrumental in helping reshape the Atlanta Public Schools in Brown's aftermath in the 1970s.

Clarence Lang, associate professor of American studies and African and African-American studies, is available to speak about the Brown decision in the context of the broader American civil rights movement. Lang's research and teaching interests are in African-American social movements between the 1930s and 1970s, and black communities and class in the urban Midwest. He is the author of "Grassroots at the Gateway: Class Politics and Black Freedom Struggle in St. Louis, 1936-75," and a co-editor of "Anticommunism and the African American Freedom Movement: 'Another Side of the Story.'"

Ruben Flores, associate professor of American Studies, can address the relationship between earlier segregation court cases in the American West and the Brown case. Flores recently finished his book "Backroads Pragmatists: Mexico's Melting Pot and Civil Rights in the United States," in which he explores the ideas of scholars who helped shape American education policy and public desegregation, particularly via their studies in Mexico and how the nation to the south integrated after the end of the Mexican Revolution in 1920. Flores started his research project based on his interest in how key figures in the Brown case had paid close attention to earlier desegregation efforts in the American West.