Conference, podcast examine school segregation 65 years after Brown decision

In the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that integrated public education was an important part of a democratic society and the "very foundation of good citizenship." Integrated schools, the court argued, would expose children to new cultures and prepare them for an increasingly diverse world.

As the ruling’s 65th anniversary approaches, questions remain about whether its intent was ever fully realized and what the future of school integration looks like throughout the United States.

Erica Frankenberg, associate professor of education and demography, and Crystal Sanders, associate professor of history and African American studies, discuss the Brown decision and the current state of school segregation on this week’s Democracy Works podcast, produced by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy and WPSU.

Following an initial period of integration throughout the 1960s and '70s, Sanders and Frankenberg argue that schools across the country moved to a model of de facto segregation as white families moved to the suburbs and sent their children to private schools.

“We've seen large numbers of segregationist academies that came into existence in the wake of Brown continue to be these very strong and successful institutions in the 21st century,” Sanders said. “There are many ways in which white parents have been able to really not just avoid, but flee, from public school systems across the country.”

Frankenberg added, “Most of the desegregation now, or integration, is not like it was after Brown. It's not court ordered. It's not mandatorily busing people across town. It's voluntarily designed in nature.”

Frankenberg is the director of the Center for Education and Civil Rights in the College of Education; Sanders is the director of the Africana Research Center in the College of the Liberal Arts. They are co-chairing Brown@65, a national symposium on the 65th anniversary of the Brown decision that will take place Friday, May 10, at the Nittany Lion Inn.

Listen to the Democracy Works podcast at wpsu.org/democracy or subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. The conversation with Frankenberg and Sanders also will air as this week’s WPSU "Take Note." Listen Friday at noon and Sunday at 7 a.m. on WPSU-FM or at wpsu.org.