Biden celebrates ‘the power of an education’ on Brown v. Board 70th anniversary

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday echoed his commitment to advancing racial and educational equity while celebrating the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Biden has spent this past week commemorating the anniversary of the landmark ruling in which the nation’s highest court ruled racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. The 1954 consolidated case evolved from a challenge to the Topeka, Kansas, Board of Education and other U.S. school systems. Yet 70 years later, research has shown an increase in school segregation across the United States.

“Education is linked to freedom because to be free means to have something that no one can ever take away from you, and that’s the power of an education — that’s why the Brown decision we commemorate today is so important,” Biden said at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., during an NAACP event marking the anniversary.

In a closed-press event on Thursday, Biden met with some of the plaintiffs and families of both Brown v. Board and the cases consolidated under it. Those combined cases include Briggs v. Elliott, from South Carolina; Bolling v. Sharpe, from Washington, D.C.; Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward, from Virginia; and Gebhart v. Belton, from Delaware.

New initiatives

Earlier Friday, the administration unveiled a series of new initiatives aimed at advancing racial and educational equity.

They included $20 million in new magnet school grants for school districts in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas in an effort to “further desegregate public schools,” according to a White House fact sheet.

The administration is also starting a new technical assistance center to “help states and school districts provide more equitable and adequate approaches to school funding.” The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is releasing data on students’ access to and enrollment in math and science courses. The White House also said it would be taking new actions to preserve African American history, such as protecting historic sites and increasing literature access.

During his Friday remarks, Biden said the administration is working to support Black children, noting how, on average, Black children start school nearly seven months behind their white peers when it comes to reading. He attributed this to “the nation’s legacy of discrimination.”

Relieving student loan debt, investing in HBCUs

As the student loan crisis persists, Biden also said “too many young people — Black students — are dealing with unsustainable debt in exchange for a college degree.” So far, the administration has relieved upwards of $160 billion in student debt for nearly 4.6 million borrowers.

Biden said the administration has invested more than $16 billion in historically Black colleges and universities. “HBCUs also don’t have endowments like other colleges and universities that are able to fund research labs and so much more. Well, (Vice President) Kamala (Harris) and I made a commitment to lift HBCUs up and we’re keeping that commitment,” he said.

The president is set to deliver the commencement address at Morehouse College, a historically Black men’s college, on Sunday in Atlanta.

Kentucky Lantern is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kentucky Lantern maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jamie Lucke for questions: Follow Kentucky Lantern on Facebook and Twitter. Kentucky Lantern stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Donate to Kentucky Lantern here.