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he 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 litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a senior fellow at the Institute, this author will direct and guide the study, 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.

Rev. Joseph A. De Laine led and organized the African American community's quest for equality in Clarendon County.

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 of 2003, and 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 comprise: (1) Education, (2) Economic Status, (3) Justice, (4) Participation in Public Life, and (5) Status of the Family.

The academic 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 all of the research papers as well as the recommendations.

The Steering Committee includes 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 majority and minority races in South Carolina, to determine to what extent racial prejudice and pre-conceived notions based on race are extant among the population.

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. DeLaine, Jr. and Carolyn N. Sawyer.

Scott's Branch School: This ten-room building in Clarendon County housed grades 1-12 when the case of
Briggs v. Elliott was filed.

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 additionally 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.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Fred Sheheen, B.A., oversees a program of internships in Columbia and Washington. He teaches a course in South Carolina state government in connection with the Columbia program. He also develops policy papers on public issues. Previously, Mr. Sheheen served as Commissioner and Executive Director of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education for ten years. He has experience as a journalist and publisher, and was news secretary to Donald Russell in his service as governor and senator. He is a graduate of Duke University and the Institute for Education Management at Harvard University. He holds honorary degrees from Lander University, Claflin University, and the Technical College of the Low Country. Mr. Sheheen can be contacted at sheheen@iopa.sc.edu.

Photos reprinted by permission from Quest for Equality: Briggs Descendants Reunion, Scott's Branch High School, Summerton, South Carolina, May 11, 2002.

For additional information about the Brown v. Board of Education Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration, visit our web site: http://ipspr.sc.edu/brown


CONTACT:

Richard D. Young, Editor in Chief
Public Policy & Practice
Institute for Public Service and
Policy Research
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208
Phone: (803) 777-0453
Fax: (803) 777-4575
e-mail: young-richard@sc.edu
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