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Commemorating Black History Month

Location: Washington, DC

COMMEMORATING BLACK HISTORY MONTH-HON. ADAM B. SCHIFF (Extensions of Remarks - February 24, 2004)


Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, as we celebrate Black History Month, I rise to pay tribute to the extraordinary African-American men and women, past and present, who have shaped the rich history of our Nation.

The month of February has been designated as Black History Month to celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of African-Americans throughout history. This year's national theme, "Brown v. Board of Education: 50th Anniversary," commemorates the historic Supreme Court decision declaring that segregation had no place in the laws of a free republic.

Over 50 years ago, in the Midwest town of Topeka, KS, a little girl named Linda Brown rode a bus 5 miles to school each day even though a public school was located only four blocks from her house. The school was not full and the little girl met all of the requirements to attend-except for the color of her skin. It is hard to imagine that merely 50 years ago, public schools across our country were deeply segregated.

A team of brave lawyers from the NAACP would later appear before the Supreme Court to demand the justice contained within our founding principles-to demand equality for young Linda Brown and for all who had been denied the basic right of equality for far too long.

On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court spoke unanimously and with great clarity when it declared that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." This decision continues to have an impact on our country today. Just last year, the Supreme Court upheld the core principles of Brown v. Board when it ruled that maintaining diversity in higher education is a compelling governmental interest. I was pleased to join other Members of Congress in filing an amicus brief with the Court expressing our belief that democratic values are enhanced by the interaction between students of diverse backgrounds and indicating our full support for the efforts of universities to create a more vibrant and enriching learning environment.

The decision in Brown v. Board would also forever change the landscape of the struggle for racial justice and equality in the United States and demonstrate the ability of individuals to effect true change. The congressional district that I represent can certainly recognize the ability of individuals to break through color barriers. Growing up in Pasadena in the early to mid-1900s, a young man named Jackie Robinson was an all-around athlete that would later change the sports world. Robinson won letters in football, baseball, basketball, and track at Pasadena's Muir Technical High School and Pasadena Junior College. Soon after, he would become the first athlete at UCLA to play on four varsity teams.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson would take the field to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers-a pioneer as the first African-American to play major league baseball. Robinson not only opened the door to pro sports for other African-American athletes, but his remarkable accomplishment would help chip away at prejudices in the minds of Americans and jumpstart the process of dismantling existing barriers throughout our society.

In this month of February, let us not only celebrate the accomplishments of those brave Americans who fought for racial justice, but let us work to keep their vision alive by continuing to break down barriers that exist and working to ensure equality of opportunity for all Americans.


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