By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The landmark Brown versus Board of Education decision that de-segregated public education in America turns 60 today.
It was May 17, 1954 that the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine had no place in public education. But it took years before many Americans, especially in the south, would have access to equal education.
“Interestingly enough, the history of the integration of the school started well before the 1954 decision,”
says Clay Armbrister, President of the historic Girard College in North Philadelphia.
Although Pennsylvania schools were desegregated by law in the 1880s, Girard College remained an all white institution pursuant to the will of Stephen Girard, the school’s benefactor.
“That will was a product of its time,” Armbrister says.
He says the Brown decision helped bolster efforts to de-segregate the school. But it took another 14 years of work by the likes of Cecil B. Moore and Martin Luther King, Jr. before change would come.
“At one point, they had a seven month, 17 day march,” he says, “where night and day, at every point, somebody was marching around the wall.”
60 years after Brown, Girard College is mostly African-American. It’s had its struggles, but Armbrister says the legacy to help children of lesser means remains in tact.