Shakti Belway, Attorney
NAACP Statement on Mississippi Desegregation Ruling
The Mississippi State Conference NAACP believes that the recent federal decision to desegregate schools in Cleveland, Miss. is a crucial step in the right direction towards providing quality education for all children. Fifty-one years after Bolivar County parents filed a lawsuit challenging the segregated school system in the county, African American students in the district finally will be allowed to attend schools without the stigma of race and poverty. Ironically, this decision has come down almost 62 years to the exact day of the historic 1954 landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education.
After the Brown v. Board of Education decision requiring school districts across the country to end the practice of segregated schools, many communities shut down schools for years, and others established segregated academies to avoid the Supreme Court mandate. These private academies were created to prevent black and white children from attending school together. However, the Cleveland Municipal School District continued its practice of maintaining a dual school system. Cleveland is not unique in this effort, as there are over 40 school districts still under a federal mandate to remove all vestiges of segregation in Mississippi and hundreds throughout the South. Many Mississippi towns are divided by the symbolic and, in some cases, actual railroad tracks. This separation is often mirrored by alarming resource and academic disparities.
“The right to a quality public education for African-American children remains a contested issue in this state. Unfortunately, local and state policymakers continue to undermine efforts to close achievement and opportunity gaps,” said Derrick Johnson, State President of the Mississippi NAACP. “The promise of the Brown decision was to provide quality education for all children. However, this promise has yet to be realized because of efforts by state lawmakers to underfund, privatize and maintain segregated schools."
“This decision is a tremendous victory for equality and the citizens of Cleveland,” stated Attorney Shakti Belway, who represented private plaintiffs in the case and has been working with Mississippi NAACP in protecting the rights of public school students. "This decision advances integration for Cleveland’s public school students and families, and should be applauded."
The Mississippi NAACP is encouraged by the recent decision of the federal court in the Cleveland school desegregation case and encourages the United States Department of Justice to thoroughly investigate other cases where federal school desegregation orders have not been honored in Mississippi school districts.
For more information, call 601-353-8452 or visit www.naacpms.org