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Biden meets with families, plaintiffs on 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

By Ehren Wynder
Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Brown v. Board of Education plaintiff Oliver Brown, speaks to the media with other plaintiffs after their meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday, May. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI
1 of 3 | Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Brown v. Board of Education plaintiff Oliver Brown, speaks to the media with other plaintiffs after their meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday, May. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

May 16 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate public schools.

"We are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives. While our society has never fully lived up to that idea, we have never fully walked away from it either," Biden said in a statement, noting the historic decision laid the groundwork for legislation such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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Biden on Thursday also met with the plaintiffs in the 1954 case and their families at the White House.

Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Oliver Brown and Leola Brown Montgomery, the namesake plaintiffs in the case, was part of the group that met with Biden on Thursday. The last time she visited the White House was in 2014 to meet President Barack Obama.

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"I always like to say that schools were the battle, but society was the target," Henderson said in an interview with USA TODAY. "It began to dismantle other aspects of Jim Crow and Black codes."

Henderson, 73, was 3-years-old when Brown was decided. She began the Brown Foundation 1988 to educate the public and for her home state of Kansas to "embrace this history and recognize that it wasn't a negative, that it was in fact something positive that we had done for the nation."

Biden also highlighted measures his administration has made to make public schools more equitable, including nearly $2 billion in Title I funding to improve education for underserved students and additional funding under the American Rescue Plan to support after-school and summer programs.

Biden also had signed a bill to expand the Brown National Historical Park.

Biden is expected to continue highlighting his administration's efforts to improve racial justice throughout the week.

Stephen Benjamin, the director of the Office of Public Engagement in a press briefing said Biden on Friday will deliver remarks at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris then will meet with leaders of the Divine 9 historically Black fraternities and sororities.

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Biden on Sunday will deliver the commencement address at the historically Black Morehouse College. The college's faculty on Thursday voted to confer him with an honorary degree.

Benjamin said the Biden-Harris administration has invested a record amount of more than $16 billion in historically Black colleges and universities.

The president's stance on school desegregation marks a stark contrast from his earlier political career. As a senator in the 1970s, he opposed the forced integration of schools, where Black students were bused into white schools in an attempt to increase racial diversity.

During his campaign for president in 2019, his future vice president Kamala Harris threw barbs at him for his past actions, noting she was bused to school as a child.

Black voters, however, partially spurred by an endorsement from civil rights leader and Democratic Sen. Jim Clyburn, would win him his first campaign victory in South Carolina.

Biden then would pick Harris as his running mate, making her the highest-ranking Black woman to hold public office.

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