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Congresswoman Clarke’s Speech on Brown v. Board of Education

Washington, D.C.. – Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke delivered the following speech today in the House of Representatives to commemorate the Sixtieth Anniversary of  Brown v. Board of Education:

“Mr. Speaker, I stand here today with my Congressional Black Caucus colleagues to commemorate an historic decision, a decision that changed this nation forever, Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court held that racial segregation itself violates the guarantee of equal protection in in Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

“The unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education called to the conscience of this nation and to the principles on which it had been founded, that each of us are created equal and that we are entitled to the full protection of our laws.

“Before Brown, the full participation of African-Americans and other people of color in our public education system, which was a primary component of our civil society, was prevented almost everywhere in the United States.

“The promises of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution – that we are created equal and entitled to the equal protection of the law – were until the decision in Brown only words without substance for the millions of people whose exclusion from this society had persisted in the century after the Civil War.

“Millions of African-Americans and other people of color could not eat in a restaurant, stay in a hotel, obtain a mortgage, or register to vote – even though they were American citizens who paid their taxes, fought for our country and obeyed the law.

“And such racial discrimination was not limited to the states of the former Confederacy. In 1936, after sprinter Jesse Owen returned to the United States for a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan, he was forced to enter the Waldorf-Astoria on a freight elevator to attend a reception there, because the hotel maintained a policy of segregation.

“Mr. Speaker, today we have a responsibility not only to commemorate Brown v. Board of Education, but also to understand its relevance at this moment in history, a moment when our schools, particular in New York City, have become more segregated by race than at any time in the past half century, when enormous disparities in income and wealth threaten to divide this nation, and, indeed, when many of the same tactics used to disenfranchise our parents and grandparents are again being used to disenfranchise African-Americans in this generation.

“Today, we have a responsibility to build on the legacy of Brown, to eliminate in our schools and other institutions the practice of racial segregation that continues to divide this nation and to protect for every American the civil rights to which we are entitled by the Constitution. It falls on our shoulders to keep up that fight for equality.

“Mr. Speaker, I recall the words of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who wrote that, ‘unless our children begin to learn together, there is little hope that our people will ever learn to live together.’

“I yield the balance of my time.”

U.S. Representative Yvette D. Clarke is a member of the House Committee on Small Business, Ethics, and Homeland Security, where she is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies. She represents many neighborhoods in central and southern Brooklyn, NY which include Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Gerritsen Beach, Madison, Midwood, parts of Park Slope and Flatlands, Prospect Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Sheepshead Bay, and Windsor Terrace.