Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Brown's Effect on Universities

BOND: Before we go on to law school, let me mention something. Something you said just triggered it. I just heard Jack Greenberg, who succeeded Thurgood Marshall at the [Legal Defense and Educational] Fund say that, looking back at Brown, he thought it probably hadn't done what it might have done for the lower schools. That just didn't turn out to be as successful. But it was a tremendous benefit to colleges --


BOND: -- and universities. And, and so, you're drawing a parallel between Brown's success and your presence at Stanford. So, do you find that to be true?

OGLETREE: Absolutely. I'm a Brown baby. I'm the first generation. I mean we were born in the '50s. And by the time that we were prepared to go to college in the early '70s, Brown had had an impact but the Stanfords, the Harvards, the Princetons, the Yales -- those doors weren't open. The African American presence, they were few and far between. And so, the case had resounding significance decades later by the doors being open. The same thing at Harvard Law School. Harvard Law School did not have the critical mass of students in the '50s. In fact, in '65, the class of '65, there was only one African American in the entire class. There was Conrad Harper, who was also an NAACP lawyer.

And so, it tells you that the progress was slow, but these institutions opened their doors up. While we've seen the resegregation of public education, as we'll talk about, the remarkable thing is that these institutions, who have written briefs and who have defended affirmative action, opened their doors to qualified, but significant numbers of people of color in the 1960s, and more importantly in the '70s and '80s. And Brown, in my view, as well as the assassination of Dr. King, which we can talk about, were the two pivotal points that changed the terrain of higher education and made it possible for my generation.