Brown Henderson Presents Lecture at Mount Union College

April 05, 2010

Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Rev. Oliver L. Brown, a significant advocate of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka KS, presented the Women's History Month Convocation at Mount Union College on Thursday, March 29 in Mount Union Theatre.

Brown Henderson, president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, discussed issues of inequality in regards to both race and gender.

'I want to remind all of you women that we are more than 50 percent of the population,' said Brown Henderson to open her presentation. 'We own this place! But, we seldom act like it.'

One of the topics that Brown Henderson thoroughly talked about was how most people don't fully understand the story of Brown v. Board of Education.

The popular myth about the case is that Rev. Oliver L. Brown was upset that his daughter wasn't allowed to enroll in a segregated school, so he filed a lawsuite. According to Brown Henderson, though, the myth is based solely on media speculation and the truth behind the story goes much deeper than that, and includes many other individuals.

Brown v. Board of Education was not the first court case to challenge school segregation. As early as 1849, African Americans filed suit against an educational system that mandated racial segregation, in the case of Roberts v. City of Boston.

One of the 13 cases involved in Brown v. Board of Education was initiated by a few individuals who recruited other parents to join their cause. As a result of their efforts, 13 parents represented 20 children in the case. This group of 13 parents included 12 women and one male. Brown Henderson's father was that male. Although he was the tenth plantiff to sign up for this cause, he was the only male, therefore the case was named after him.

Brown Henderson touched on the reasons why Brown v. Board of Education is still important today. She stated that the case overturned the laws of segregated schools in 21 states, was the beginning of the end of segregation by law and overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson case.

'My father passed away when I was 10 years old,' said Brown Henderson. 'He didn't even live to see all that he helped accomplish.'

Brown Henderson doesn't believe that most people involved with Brown v. Board of Education case ever would have anticipated the impact of the case. 'Today, we have full-access to any public school no matter what race and people give attention and money to integrated schools but there are still some individuals out there that don't believe that integration is acceptable,' she said.

Throughout her lecture she touched on her own personal experiences and other cases and experiences that helped shape desegregation.

Although we have come so far as a nation, Brown Henderson is concerned that people today are still pondering the questions 'Is our nation ready for an African-American president?' 'Is our nation ready for a woman president?'

To conclude her lecture, she asked the audience to answer numerous questions by raising their hands. Some of these questions included, 'Have you ever smoked a cigarette?' 'Have you ever ridden on a motorcycle without a helmet?' 'Have you ever eaten fast-food 5 days in a row?' She made the point that these questions were answered with low-risk.

Brown Henderson added, if these questions were so easy to admit to the rest of the audience, 'Why is it so risky for us to get along with each other?'

Brown Henderson has background in education, business, civic leadership, political advocacy, public implementation and federal legislative development. She has served on various local, state and national boards.

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