The Philadelphia Bar Association and the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia debuted a joint project at the historic Mother Bethel AME Church: putting a new lens on the lessons, legacy and unfulfilled promise of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education. Some 60 years after legal segregation in American public schools ended, questions remain as to whether actual integration and equitable resource sharing ever took root — or it has simply receded to a point where in some areas such as Philadelphia, outcomes remain bleak.
Former Gov. Ed Rendell offered remarks and perspective, as did William P. Fedullo and Amber Racine, who respectively head PBA and the Barristers. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and opinion page editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Harold Jackson, also gave a heartfelt presentation on coming of age in the shadow of Brown in segregated Alabama, and the comparisons and contrasts he sees in public education today.
On May 17, 1954, the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court spoke in one voice and declared that “separate but equal” would no longer be an acceptable approach public education, demanding that integration — and full access to quality education — be instituted “with all deliberate speed.”
The Friday event at Mother Bethel included a screening of a new short film featuring area attorneys and legal minds who lived through those early days of school desegregation, and their interpretation of what “all deliberate speed” meant in real terms. In recounting their recollections, resilience and hopes for the future, they also offered another page in the ever-evolving chapter in the quest for full equality and pursuit of happiness in these United States, for all its citizens.
Watch the film for more.