Friday, May 16, 2014 6:00 pm
Obama hosts Brown v. Board families and lawyers
Obama also met Friday in the White House East Room with families of the plaintiffs, lead attorneys Jack Greenberg and William Coleman and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Greenberg argued the case; Coleman was a leading legal strategist.
Obama said in a statement that the decision, issued on May 17, 1954, was "the first major step in dismantling the 'separate but equal' doctrine that justified Jim Crow," the racial segregation laws that were in place at the state and local level across the South.
"As we commemorate this historic anniversary, we recommit ourselves to the long struggle to stamp out bigotry and racism in all their forms," Obama said. "We reaffirm our belief that all children deserve an education worthy of their promise. And we remember that change did not come overnight, that it took many years and a nationwide movement to fully realize the dream of civil rights for all of God's children."
Obama pledged to never forget the men, women and children who took "extraordinary risks in order to make our country more fair and more free."
"Today, it falls on us to honor their legacy by taking our place in their march and doing our part to perfect the union we love," he said.
First lady Michelle Obama observed the anniversary by visiting Topeka, Kansas, site of the lawsuit that initiated the case. She met Friday with high school students in a college preparatory program and delivered remarks at a pre-graduation event for seniors in the Topeka Public School District.
"Every day, you have the power to choose our better history — by opening your hearts and minds, by speaking up for what you know is right, by sharing the lessons of Brown versus Board of Education, the lessons you learned right here in Topeka, wherever you go for the rest of your lives," Mrs. Obama said.
Associated Press writer John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, contributed to this report.