by Mike Brothers
Drury University’s Olin Library will host a free public exhibit about the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision throughout February, Black History Month.
The exhibit comes to Drury from the Brown Foundation based in Topeka, Kansas. Established in 1988, the Foundation grew out of a cooperative effort between the family of the late Rev. Oliver Brown and Topeka community leaders to promote public discourse around the ongoing impact and significance of the Brown decision.
Oliver Brown garnered his place in history by accepting an invitation to join an assembly of parents who would ultimately become plaintiffs for the Topeka NAACP legal challenge to segregated public schools. The case eventually was named for him. The eventual victory dismantled the legal framework for racial segregation and set into motion social and political movements that changed the course of history.
Brown, an African Methodist Episcopal minister, came to Springfield with his family to serve as pastor of Benton Avenue A.M.E. Church in 1959. The church building at the corner of Central Street and Benton Avenue is now owned by Drury University. Brown’s work in the pursuit of racial equality and justice continued in Springfield. He helped organize demonstrations and marches that brought about change in this area, and he led with dynamism from the pulpit. He died in 1961 at age 42. Brown’s daughter Cheryl Brown Henderson was the keynote speaker at Drury’s spring commencement last year.
About the exhibit
The Brown v. Board exhibit uses images and text to share little known facts about the history of the Brown decision. Today few people realize that as early as 1849 African Americans fought the system of education in this country that mandated separate schools for their children based solely on race. In many instances these schools were substandard facilities with out-of-date textbooks and often no basic school supplies. What was not in question was the dedication of the African American teachers assigned to these schools.
This chronological look at the history of the Brown decision leaves the viewer with a clear understanding that efforts still continue across the country to realize the dream of individuals and organizations that challenged a system that would deny them access to equal educational opportunity and their basic civil rights.
The exhibit is appropriate for grade six through adults. Olin Library’s regular hours are as follows:
- Monday through Thursday – 7:45 a.m. to midnight
- Friday – 7:45 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Saturday – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Sunday – 1 p.m. to midnight