Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Reflections on Brown – Education is Key

BOND: Rita Dove, thank you for being on Explorations in Black Leadership.

DOVE: Thank you for inviting me.

BOND: I want to begin by asking you a question about the Brown decision. It says in my script to ask what did it mean to you at the time. Of course, you were but two years old, but what do you think it has come to mean?

DOVE: Hmmm — Well, first of all, I think that for my parents, it meant quite a deal and I knew of it when I was growing up. I knew that it had happened when I was a little wee toddler and I was constantly being told that this was important and that I was lucky to be born when I was born, so I grew up knowing that this is a legacy that had far-reaching consequences and I think that obviously education was one of the key elements. It has become — I think that it's really become something that people have accepted and know that's the baseline which means that every struggle to try to get a school not just integrated but up to par is based upon an acceptance that that's the way it should be. That may not be the way everyone really thinks deep in their hearts, but — they know that that's the way it's going to be and so it's incredibly important.

BOND: That sort of carries on to the next question. What do you think it has come to mean as opposed to what it might have been meant to mean?

DOVE: That decision has come to mean that I believe most Americans do accept the fact that education becomes the prime mover in terms of advancement for anyone, that this decision was necessary at a time to try to rectify this imbalance to realize how important it is to have equal opportunities for education and that these kinds of things can be, shall we say, these kinds of things can be slid by in various ways, not just through out-and-out segregation but also through redistricting or even just white flight. All of these things affect something which is essential to us which is to have a very good education. Without that basis it's very difficult to get ahead in this country and that's an important realization for an entire country to make, whether they accept it or not, whether you fight against it or not. To make the realization education is a key is something that Brown vs. the Board of Education brought to the forefront.