MD Bar BulletinMaryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin

Editor: W. Patrick Tandy

May, 2004

 

MSBA Pays Tribute to Brown vs. Board of Education
~Devotes Law Day to 50th Anniversary~

By Janet Stidman Eveleth

Throughout 2004, MSBA has joined Maryland’s legal community, local community organizations and the public in commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education with a host of celebratory events, unique exhibits, school activities, educational programs and forums. As a special tribute to Brown, MSBA dedicated Law Day 2004 to this landmark Supreme Court decision and offered a special Brown vs. Board of Education Speakers’ Bureau this year with over 50 attorneys volunteering to go out into the community to discuss this historic milestone.

Center Stage Commemoration

On the evening of May 3, 2004, MSBA presented its first celebratory Law Day commemorative event at Center Stage, catering to a sellout crowd. Partnering with Center Stage and other local community groups, MSBA unveiled an educational and entertaining Brown vs. Board of Education community forum, free to all MSBA members and the public. This presentation featured live readings from original Brown case transcripts highlighting key oral arguments of the trial.

MSBA President Harry S. Johnson welcomed the audience and opened the program, along with Center Stage General Manager Michael Ross and Dramatur Gavin Witt. The Honorable Robert M. Bell, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland, was one of the readers, and MSBA “stars” for this performance included Jonathan Claiborne, Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, Edward Smith, Jr., Arena Players, and Elizabeth Hewlett, Chair of the Maryland National Capitol Park Planning Commission.

The legal community was also represented by the Honorable Andre M. Davis, U. S. District Court, District of Maryland, Gilbert Holmes, Dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law, Larry S. Gibson, University of Maryland School of Law professor, and Philip M. Andrews, Kramon & Preston. As an added plus, local high school students from Center Stage’s Encounter outreach program inspired the audience with trial readings and moving, personal contemporary reflections.

The community forum “performers” offered effective and dramatic recitations of the actual Brown vs. Board of Education trial excerpts. Their readings, along with those of other community leaders, were complemented by news clippings and editorials from the era as well as recollections from several people who were there. Collectively, this event told the story of Brown, proffering insight into the heart of the momentous transformation wrought by this case.

At the conclusion of the recitations, Witt, serving as moderator, engaged the audience in a lively, interactive dialogue of issues the commemoration raised, especially in our contemporary times. The audience probed the long-term impact of Brown, explored how far we have come and how far we have to go, discussed its impact on the Baltimore City School system today and examined Brown’s legacy to future generations of Americans.

Center Stage and commissioned playwright Jerome Hairston, aided by University of Maryland School of Law professor Katherine Vaughns and several student volunteers, crafted Brown’s trial transcripts into the compelling and insightful script presented on May 3.

Center Stage presented this program in association with the Maryland State Bar Association, the Bar Association of Baltimore City, the University of Maryland School of Law and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture. The Baltimore Sun also sponsored the commemorative event, with generous funding support from the Baltimore Community Foundation’s collection of charitable funds benefiting the Greater Baltimore Region, the Maryland Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Aaron Straus & Lillie Straus Foundation.

Student/Teacher/Lawyer Conference

On May 18, MSBA’s Public Awareness Committee, in conjunction with the Citizenship Law-Related Education Program, will sponsor the Association’s second Law Day event at the Sheppard Pratt Conference Center in Towson, Maryland. This one-day program will welcome over 150 students, teachers and lawyers who will be engaged in an interactive day of educational sessions and workshops devoted to Brown vs. Board of Education in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

In addition to scheduled speakers Judge Robert M. Bell and MSBA President Harry S. Johnson, highlights of the conference include a special Brown vs. Board of Education historical perspective videotape and a reenactment of the May 3 Center Stage/MSBA community  program, with the students performing the scripted readings. Center Stage generously donated the use of the script to MSBA for this special program. Other lively sessions and an insightful dialogue about the ramifications of Brown are also planned.

MSBA Brown Speakers’ Bureau

To celebrate the significance of Brown vs. Board of Education, 50+ MSBA attorney volunteers signed up for the Association’s special Brown Speakers’ Bureau in early 2004. These very enthusiastic attorneys have gone out into their local communities to talk to the public about the importance of Brown vs. Board of Education and its impact on civil rights. They have been discussing the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the issues it addresses in a contemporary context and the strides our nation has made in the last 50 years.

The 2004 MSBA Brown vs. Board of Education Speakers’ Bureau is a special addition to MSBA’s regular Speakers’ Bureau, where attorneys visit community groups, senior centers, schools, churches and other groups to talk about the law. MSBA offers this popular, free service as a public education program.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: May, 2004

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