Daughter of Brown v. Board Of Education Speaks On Living Through History

By Rachel Martin - 21Alive

April 8, 2014 Updated Apr 8, 2014 at 11:09 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) – The daughter of the man whose name headlines the Brown v. Board Of Education Supreme Court Case, speaks on what really happened, and how the case really came about.

This year is the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. The Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court Case people would consider one of the most important judicial decisions of the nation making segregated schools unconstitutional.

But Cheryl Brown Henderson, the daughter of Oliver Brown, the man whose name headlines the case, says it marked the beginning of equal opportunities.

"Education is so basic,” said Brown Henderson. “It should be open and people should be happy to provide it, and to make certain that the children are getting an equal education opportunity."

This was an educational opportunity Northrop High School History Teacher Neil Day couldn't pass up—to hear from Brown Henderson what really happened. He is currently teaching his classes about the Civil Rights Movement.

"Having someone speak who is a direct participant in the events of what we're talking about, particularly early in the Civil Rights Movement, will bring home to them that this is not ancient history. This is something that had a profound impact on why they're able to live the lives that they can live today,” said Day.

"When you read a book, you don't really get the emotional side of it, so you just don't fully understand what the people were going through,” said Erin Woodard, a student in Day’s history class. “It's just a completely different experience because you're seeing the emotions behind what the writing is."

During her speech, Brown Henderson dispelled some of the misconceptions behind the case, like that it originated in Brown Henderson's hometown of Topeka, Kan. and spanned across Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington DC. She says there were also hundreds of plaintiffs in the case, not just her father.

"See people are misled into thinking it was something that my father did on his own as an individual action, when in fact the NAACP as an organization made the decision," she said. "They need to know that there were young people involved, that it took years to happen, it just happen all of a sudden. It was a group, a collective action much like the Civil Rights Movement."

But, there is one lesson this case continues to teach

Brown Henderson, "When you have an opportunity, you have to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity. People have to take responsibility. Once the opportunity is created and there for you, then you have to prepare yourself to take advantage of that," said Brown Henderson.

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