Events mark 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

By Patrick J. Callahan

The History Department is hosting a semester-long program of events marking the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that declared racial segregation in schools unlawful. As part of the program it is also presenting the inaugural season of the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series that will bring prominent speakers to the Amherst campus.

The program, “Race, Law, and Civil Rights: Fifty Years of Brown v. Board of Education,” runs from Sept. 14- Dec. 7 and features panels and public discussions, a concert, a photo exhibit, a one-man play, and dramatic readings. The first event is “Opening Concert: O Freedom! A Musical History of the Civil Rights Movement,” Sept. 14, at 8 p.m. in Bowker Auditorium, featuring Horace Boyer and Jane Sapp and Friends. Tickets are free but seating is limited.

Speakers in the Feinberg series are Charles M. Payne, professor at Duke University, Nicholas Katzenbach, former U.S. attorney general, and Patricia J. Williams, professor at Columbia University.

Carl H. Nightingale, professor of History and one of the organizers, says, “This program of events offers a unique chance for the university and the Pioneer Valley communities to think together about where America has come as a country since racial segregation was outlawed. The Feinberg lecture series will bring in some of the country’s most prominent voices in the search for racial justice. Some of the Valley’s and the country’s most celebrated artists will offer their own explorations of the triumphs and tragedies of America’s struggle over race. And nearly weekly panel discussions will open up the floor for frank and wide-ranging discussion of ideas with participants in the civil rights movement and some of the most prominent experts in the country, many of whom live in our community.”

The Feinberg lecture series includes three talks on race in America. The series is made possible by the generosity of alumnus Kenneth Feinberg, his family and friends. Feinberg is the special master administering the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, and a prominent Washington, D.C. lawyer who grew up in Brockton. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst in 1967.

The lectures are:

Thursday, Sept. 23: “‘The Whole United States is Southern!!’: Brown v. Board of Education and the Mystification of Race,” by Charles Payne, Sally Dalton Robinson
Professor of History, African American Studies and Sociology, Duke University; Isenberg School of Management, Flavin Auditorium, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 7: “Brown and the Civil Rights Movement: A View from Washington,” by Nicholas Katzenbach, former U.S. attorney general; Mahar Auditorium, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 26: “Diary of a Mad Law Professor: Recent Entries,” by Patricia Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law, Columbia University, and columnist for The Nation; Mahar Auditorium, 7:30 p.m.