Cheryl Brown Henderson

Cheryl Brown Henderson, civil rights activist and daughter of Rev. Oliver Brown, appellant in the 1954 Brown v. The Board of Education Supreme Court case, invited anyone to come up to the bottom of the stage and talk with her Tuesday night.

On Tuesday night, Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of Rev. Oliver Brown, appellant in the 1954 Brown v. The Board of Education Supreme Court case which ended legal racial segregation in public schools, spoke before an audience at the Student Union.

Henderson, the founding president of The Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, and owner of Brown & Associates, an educational consulting firm, spoke about how a form of racial reconstruction is attempted every few decades in the United States. She believes that Brown v. The Board of Education was another attempt at the unfinished Reconstruction of the 19th century, by desegregating the schools.

Her father, she said, was a man who wanted to do his civic duty, and when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) asked him to represent the organization in the courts, he showed up. Henderson explained that her father was the only man on the plaintiff’s side, thus his name came first on the court case.

Henderson said that the case was never about teaching quality that the students weren’t getting, but it was all about segregation and how it had to end.

“Without exception, we all got here the same way, we were all born to somebody, unless there are some Martians sitting out here, without exception, so there should never be any sense that you are superior to anybody, there should never be any sense that your mere existence makes you entitled,” Henderson said. “Without exception, you came here naked and screaming just like everybody else.”

Henderson said her father knew that “being a citizen of this country is not a spectator sport,” and that he had to fight to desegregate the country.

Henderson believes we are currently going through a form of reconstruction again, after the death of George Floyd. However, in her view, the debate over critical race theory (CRT) halted all attempts at another reconstruction. The public debate over CRT was largely begun by Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist.

“None of it is by accident, but by design,” Henderson said about Rufo, who said in a New Yorker interview that he weaponized CRT on purpose.

All attempts at halting another reconstruction, Henderson believes, are because of fear, fear from racist groups that their power might be taken away.

“I honestly believe that every time there is a push back at another attempt to reconstruct, it is based principally on fear. Which should cause you to ask a question. Fear what? Fear of losing power. Fear of losing the sense of entitlement some carry within them. Fear of finding out that we are in fact created equal,” Henderson said.

Audience members clapped, nodded in agreement and laughed along with Henderson’s presentation. First-year student Kennedy Ross said that Henderson was an engaging speaker.

“I feel like it was really informative and I liked her perspective, I thought she was a really good speaker,” Ross said. “I liked that she was very honest, she just explained things really well. I think she was very informed and funny.”

After the presentation, about six students asked Henderson questions using the provided microphones. After the set question time was over Henderson invited anyone to come up to the bottom of the stage and talk with her.

She stayed on the stage to maintain social distancing. A large group of audience members came up to the stage and talked for about 10 minutes. The entire meeting lasted until around 8:40 p.m. when Campus Events Board staff informed Henderson that there was no more time for questions.

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