Brown at 65 – No Cause for Celebration

As the nation prepares to mark the 65th anniversary of the landmark Brown v Board of Education ruling declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional, the UCLA Civil Rights Project today published new research detailing school enrollment patterns and segregation in the nation’s schools. The findings are not cause for celebration.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown decision in 1954 held that segregated education was “inherently unequal” and created irreversible harm to segregated students. The ruling held forth great promise, but was met with intense opposition, and little progress was made, until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other events of the 1960s furthered desegregation of public schools, including a series of Supreme Court decisions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That progress was checked by Supreme Court rulings in the 1990s leading to the end of desegregation orders and plans, fueling racial and economic re-segregation over the past three decades.

Since 1988, the share of intensely segregated minority schools — schools that enroll 90-100% non-white students, has more than tripled from 5.7% in 1988 to 18.2% in 2016. Historically many of these intensely segregated minority schools have also had high concentrations of low-income students.

UCLA Professor of Education Gary Orfield is the co-director of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA.

“As we mark it’s 65th anniversary, the promise of Brown appears a distant vision in our dangerously polarized society,” says Professor Gary Orfield, the co-director of the UCLA Civil Rights Project. “Segregation is expanding in almost all regions of the country. Little has been done for a generation. There has been no meaningful federal government effort devoted to foster the voluntary integration of the schools, and it has been decades since federal agencies funded research about effective strategies for school integration. We have to do more.”

“This research makes clear that segregation is increasing and should be viewed with critical concern,” says Jennifer Ayscue, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University and a co-author of the report. “Allowing segregation to spread and deepen is harmful to individual students of all races and undermines our future in a rapidly changing nation.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown decision, the most important decision of the 20th century, held that segregated education was ‘inherently unequal’ and created irreversible harm to segregated students,” concludes Orfield. “As a nation we have failed to live up to its promise and that harm is apparent. More than six decades after the Brown decision our nation faces a critical moment in which we must address the importance of integration. We must act now.”

Harming our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years after Brown, is a project of the UCLA Civil Rights Project with the Center for Education and Civil Rights at Pennsylvania State University. The report was produced in collaboration with researchers at Loyola Marymount University, North Carolina State University and Pennsylvania State University. The full report was published online on the UCLA Civil Rights Project website, Friday, May 10, 2019. Highlights of the report were presented May 10 at Brown@65, a national symposium at Pennsylvania State University.

For findings and more information on “Harming our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years after Brown,” visit the Knowledge That Matters – Sudikoff Institute Public Forum website.

Visit these links for national media coverage of the report:


The New York Times – Threatening the Future: The High Stakes of Deepening Segregation

The Washington Post – The promise of historic Brown V. Board school desegregation ruling is ‘at grave risk,’ report says

VOX – 65 years after Brown v. Board of Education, school segregation is getting worse