Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Impact of Brown v. Board of Education

BOND: Well now, we're fifty-one years away from the Brown decision in '54 and what do you think it has turned out to mean?

BRAUN: I think it's had very mixed reviews, to be honest. On the one hand, the integration of the schools was achieved on some levels and certainly in regards to faculty, in regards to hiring, those kinds of things have occurred pretty much across the country. On the other, I think it has given rise to the ghettoization, if you will, of public education because a lot of the constituency to pay for the public schools evaporated, vanished, with -- in the post-Brown environment. There are those who say there're a lot of different reasons for it and race and integration was not the only reason, but I think it's pretty -- I imagine it's documentable. I don't know, but when you look at the level of public support for public education nationwide, it is so diminished from the standing, if you will, of public education 50 years ago, from the kind of financial support that communities gave to public education. Now, that's a phenomenon across the board with education even at the higher levels, I think, but at the same time, I think that the constituency for public education was changed by the Brown decision more than anything else.

BOND: I read something you said in 1994 that the most interesting change in America since '54 is the way in which attitudes about life station have changed. What did you mean by that?

BRAUN: The notion that blacks were relegated to a particular set of roles in the society, that women were relegated to particular set of roles in society, that ethnicity would limit some persons -- limit people in terms of what they could do, and so what was considered the concept of station in life I think has changed the most. And that was what the whole cultural revolution of the ‘50s and ‘60s I think represented. [What it] reflected more than anything else was the change in attitudes about station and therefore a series of realignments and adjustments in the way that we define civil society.

BOND: By any standard, you are a remarkably accomplished person, by any standard.

BRAUN: Well, thank you.

BOND: Have you ever thought that but for the Brown decision -- but for the Brown decision that you might be a very different person?

BRAUN: Oh, there's no question about it. There's no question about it. I mean, when I look back at, you know, people such as yourself and I don't want to speak over much, but the fact of the matter is that the role that you played, that Dr. King played, that Andy Young and all of the leadership of the civil rights movement from those days, it transformed this country and opened up doors and made it possible for people like myself to come through and to have the accomplishments that are now part of my resume. There's no way I would have been able to go to Ruggles Elementary or to get into the University of Chicago or to become a senator, ambassador and all this other stuff. None of it would have happened but for the efforts of people who actually took their own lives at risk to open up, integrate and change civil society in the United States.