BY: SHAWN BURNS
BETHANY W. Va. – Bethany College Black Alliance Club hosted an event on February 10 featuring speaker Professor Ric Sheffield. There was a great turn out for the event and attendees were enlightened by Sheffield’s talk. Sheffield is a Professor at Kenyon College and a former civil rights lawyer. His 30 minute lecture and video presentation about Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was meant to show a different insight of that infamous nation changing case.
The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case was a landmark United State Supreme Court case in which the court declared that state laws that prohibited white and black students to attend the same schools were unconstitutional. This case played a major role in civil rights movements in America. This case opened doors for black students to have the same opportunities as white students in academics and sports.
In this particular lecture given by Sheffield he gave examples and facts about how segregation affected blacks in rural and northern states during this time. He stressed to the attendants that the issue of segregation did not only go on in south, as many people envision. The problem was widespread in America but sometimes overlooked for geographical reasons.
Sheffield gave listeners examples of segregation by talking about his personal ordeals and those of other high school students he had researched and interviewed during the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. In most rural communities schools were unable to separate blacks and whites and black were forced physically to attend white schools. Sheffield told the listeners that until he got to college, he was always the only black kid in every class he was in.
Sheffield’s stories were real and were truly a testament of how far our society has come in the years since. At the end of his presentation Sheffield opened the floor for a discussion and some people asked questions and gave comments. Sheffield touched on how he thinks segregation is at all-time high right now.
According to Sheffield, states frequently separate city schools, which are predominantly filled with black students, and other public and private school which are made of up of primarily white students, by funding. Simply put, the schools with lower-income minority students get less money and schools for children with higher income families get more money, resources, and attention.
Sheffield’s talk was very elaborate and the speaker was very well-educated with facts backing every point he made throughout his lecture and open discussion. Everyone that had the honor of being there definitely had a great experience and learned a lot from it. Our country has come a long way but as Sheffield pointed out, we still have a long way to go. It is up to the younger generations to continue on the path equality and justice everywhere. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”