Biden marks 70 years since Brown v. Board of Education: 'A prayer was answered'

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President Biden on Friday commemorated the 70th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling that ended segregation in public schools. 

“Seventy years ago, when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, a prayer was answered in the long struggle for freedom,” said Biden, speaking from the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. 

He reflected on meeting with members of the Little Rock Nine on Thursday and how what they endured in 1957 wasn’t all that long ago, pointing out there is still room for progress.  

“We have a whole group of people out there trying to rewrite history, trying to erase history,” Biden said. 

Since 2021, at least 18 states have imposed bans or restrictions on teaching topics of race and gender, according to a report by Education Week.

During the 2022-23 school year, 153 districts across 33 states banned books, according to a report by PEN America, many of which were written by authors of color and delve into topics including race and racism.

The Biden-Harris administration this week announced new steps toward achieving educational equity, including investing $20 million in new awards for school districts in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas to establish magnet programs. 

The administration is also launching an interagency process to preserve African American history. 

“The Brown decision proves a simple idea: We learn better when we learn together,” Biden said.

After he spoke, members of the Little Rock Nine addressed the crowd with Sheryl Ralph Lee. 

They shared what it was like to attend school, escorted by the U.S. National Guard, as mobs of white demonstrators screamed epithets and hung effigies as they walked past. 

“They intended to hurt us,” said Elizabeth Eckford. 

Racism, added Minniejean Brown Trickey, is designed to make the marginalized hurt. But because they persevered, she said, things were able to change.

“Kids can make presidents act,” said Brown Trickey. “In the end, it was our persistence that made it possible for everyone to have to advocate on our behalf.”

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