Teachers College Honors Civil Rights PioneersNEW YORK
Graduates of Columbia University’s Teachers College were reminded last month of the lasting importance of the civil rights movement and its influence on the struggle for equity in education.
The university used the 2002 Master’s Convocation setting to honor several important leaders who played crucial roles in shaping America’s civil rights policies.
Honorees were: the Brown family; Coretta Scott King; Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.; and Dr. David Levering Lewis, Rutgers University professor and author of the Pulitzer Prize winning biography of W.E.B. DuBois. Each was presented with the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service to Education.
“We wanted to focus on the enduring commitment of our society before Sept. 11 and what we think must never, ever be forgotten,” says Dr. Arthur Levine, president of Teachers College.
Levine praised the medalists as “four champions of equity — leaders in a lonely battle who suffered and won victories — not personal victories, but victories for humanity.”
Cheryl Brown Henderson, founder of the Brown Foundation, accepted the award on behalf of her father, the late Reverend Oliver L. Brown, for his role in the landmark Supreme Court decision that led to the desegregation of the nation’s public schools.
“Brown v. The Board of Education placed race squarely on the national agenda, insisting that this country mature into a more credible democracy,” Henderson said after accepting the award. “The Teachers College medal also belongs to the nearly 200 community activists, attorneys and plaintiffs whose sacrifices required the U.S. Supreme Court in May of 1954 to act with conscience, reason and compassion.”
Rep. John Lewis, who was honored for his front-line activism during the 1960s, encouraged the graduates to “make a little noise” for what they believed in.
“During the height of the civil rights movement, young people, many students like you, had the courage to put their bodies on the line — we didn’t have a Web site, we didn’t have cell phones, we didn’t even have fax machines. But we believed in the possibility of America, and we were willing to put ourselves in the way,” Lewis said. “As you go forth, just get in the way and make a little noise for the good, and the beloved community to be yours.”
Two professors at Teachers College are documenting the connection between the school and the struggle for equity in education by examining the role Northern institutions played in the preparation of Black scholars for educational and social leadership.
“These were the people who came to schools like Teachers College and New York University who became the leaders, faculty and administrators of historically Black colleges and universities at a very critical point leading up to the Brown case,” Dr. Margaret Crocco says.
As a first step in their comprehensive effort, Crocco and Dr. Cally Waite have uncovered the connections between Teachers College and HBCUs, notably Hampton, Tuskegee, Fisk, Lincoln and Howard universities.
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