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The Institute for Public Service and Policy Research has embarked on a two-year project to mark the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1954 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court abolishing segregation in public schools. The project will culminate in the publication of a series of papers published by the Institute on May 17, 2004, examining the status of African-Americans and race relations in South Carolina and making public policy recommendations for eliminating the vestiges of segregation which linger in various aspects of current life in the state.

Additionally, USC President Andrew Sorensen and Provost Jerome D. Odom have requested that the Institute "coordinate the many activities of the University being planned for the anniversary," observing that "South Carolina played a key role in this monumental decision." South Carolina was one of the original parties to the ligitation in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Fred Sheheen, a senior fellow at the Institute, will direct and guide the project, with the advice and assistance of a distinguished Steering Committee. The Institute has already begun communications with other USC units which are planning activities in connection with the anniversary celebration and will seek to coordinate all such projects.

These AME bishops led a prayer vigil at the U.S. Supreme Court while arguments in Brown v. Board of Education were being presented before the Court. Photo reproduced by permission from Quest for Equality: Briggs Descendants Reunion.

Meanwhile, the United States Congress has created the Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commission to lead a national observance of the event. The Commission will visit South Carolina the first week in June. The University of South Carolina and the Institute for Public Service and Policy Research will host the visit.

The Institute's role, in summary, will include:

  1. Examining the status of African-Americans and race relations in South Carolina through a series of research papers.
  2. Coordinating USC activities marking the 50th anniversary of the court decision.
  3. Hosting the visit of the national (Brown) Commission to South Carolina.

External financial support for the research project and other activities has been contributed by a number of entities. The organizations contributing include Nelson, Mullins, Riley and Scarborough; the McNair Law Firm; Nexsen, Pruet, Jacobs and Pollard; the S.C. Commission on Higher Education; the South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper); and BellSouth.

The Institute has retained the services of five distinguished faculty members from public and private higher educational institutions in the state to inquire into several subject areas of importance to African-Americans in South Carolina. These areas include: (1) Education, (2) Economic Status, (3) Justice, (4) Participation in Public Life, and (5) Status of the Family.

The researchers will complete their work by December 15, 2003, and the material produced will serve as the basis for deliberations by the project's Steering Committee for formulating recommendations in public policy for the state. On May 17, 2004, the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision on Brown v. Board of Education, the Institute will publish the research papers as well as the recommendations.

The members of the Steering Committee include the following persons:

Fred R. Sheheen, Senior Fellow, Institute for Public Service and Policy Research, University of South Carolina, former S.C. Commissioner of Higher Education

Stuart Andrews, Attorney, Nelson, Mullins, Riley and Scarborough

Paul W. Beazley, Retired, Deputy Commissioner, South Carolina Human Affairs Commission

Dr. Andrew Billingsley, Scholar-in-Residence, Institute for Families in Society, University of South Carolina.

Janie Davis, Executive Director, South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs

Dr. Marianna Davis, Special Assistant to the President, Benedict College

Dr. Bob Moore, Retired, Professor of History, Columbia College

Dr. Cleveland Sellers, Director, African American Studies, University of South Carolina

In addition to the research to be completed on the five topic areas mentioned above, the project will include a survey to examine attitudes among South Carolinians to determine to what extent racial prejudice and pre-conceived notions based on race are extant among the population.

Rev. Joseph A. De Laine, a local pastor, led and organized the black community's quest for equality in Clarendon County, SC. Photo reproduced by permission from Quest for Equality: Briggs v. Elliott.

The national Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commission will meet in South Carolina on June 3 through 5, 2003. Established on September 18, 2001, by the United States Congress Public Law 107-41, the Brown Commission was created for the purpose of encouraging and providing for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

The Brown Commission members were selected by the President of the United States, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, the Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the head of the Brown Foundation (for Educational Equity, Excellence, and Research), the director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education fund, and the superintendent of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. Members from each of the four states (Kansas, South Carolina, Delaware and Virginia) and the District of Columbia, represented by the Brown v. Board of Education decision were recommended to the President by the leadership of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. (It should be noted that the State of Massachusetts is additionally acknowledged and represented due to a case for desegregation heard in its state courts during the mid-nineteenth century.)

South Carolina's presidentially appointed representatives are Joseph A. De Laine, Jr. and Carolyn N. Sawyer.

During its visit to South Carolina, the Brown Commission will be honored at a reception to be hosted by BellSouth. The Commission will hold at least one public meeting in Columbia. At the meeting, the Institute and other USC representatives will make presentations outlining their plans for observing the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Later, the Commission will travel to Clarendon County for a day of observances and other activities. South Carolina Educational Television has planned a special taping of the Brown Commission at its studios.

President George W. Bush issued a statement upon signing the law creating the Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commission. "The Commission will advise the Secretary of Education on activities to help celebrate one of the most important decisions ever issued by the U.S. Supreme Court--the decision that recognized the constitutional right to freedom from racial discrimination in our public schools.... I look forward to the national celebration in 2004 of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education."

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige declared upon announcing the appointment of the Commission: "The Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education dramatically opened the doors of opportunity to countless numbers of Americans, including me....The Brown decision is a stark reminder that we must not rest until all children, no matter their race or ethnicity, no matter whether they live in an urban, suburban or rural school district, no matter whether or not they have a disability, have access to a high quality education."

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said, "Brown v. Board of Education was truly a watershed decision in American jurisprudence. The Supreme Court eliminated the offensive 'separate but equal' doctrine and laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement that has been critical to ensuring justice and equality for all Americans."


Coordinator, The Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration, Brown v. Board of Education
Institute for Public Service and Policy Research
1522 Carolina Plaza
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208
Phone: (803) 777-1298
e-mail: sheheen@sc.edu


Beth Hutchison Burn
Fred R. Sheheen

College of Arts and Sciences