PROFILE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"We conclude, unanimously, that in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate-but-equal' has no place." Earl Warren, Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

In May of 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. This case focused national attention on the practice of maintaining racially segregated public schools, which was a common practice at that point in time.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of this decision, it appears that few Americans are familiar with the basic facts of the case and what it has meant to our society. In a new documentary program, BLACK/WHITE & BROWN: Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka, the story, events and circumstances of this momentous decision are told by many of the individuals associated with this case, including Cheryl Brown Henderson (plaintiff Oliver Brown's youngest daughter, director of the Brown Foundation), Linda Brown Thompson (Oliver Brown's daughter whose admission denial to an all-white elementary school helped form the basis of the case), Roger Wilkins (Co-Chair, NAACP Legal Defense Fund), Hon. Robert Carter (Federal District Court Judge, former attorney with the Legal Defense Fund at the time of the Brown case), Leola Montgomery (Oliver Brown's widow), and Maurita Davis (daughter of McKinley Burnett, former president of the Topeka branch of the NAACP).

This new program offers exclusive insights and interviews from many of the participants who have traditionally shunned the public spotlight resulting from the case that the New York Times has called "the most important legal decision of the 20th century, perhaps of all time."

This momentous Supreme Court decision has become one of the pivotal events in the history of the civil rights movement. It continues to serve as a landmark ruling to which many lawyers and social activists refer as they present arguments in support of various issues associated with matters of cultural diversity and racial equity.
Although this case carries the name of a Topeka, Kansas resident (Oliver Brown) as well as Topeka's Board of Education, it involved a consolidation of cases from several other venues, including South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia and the District of Columbia. It evolved as part of a national strategy devised by attorneys associated with the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall.
 
BLACK/ WHITE & BROWN tells the stories of the individuals associated with this case (many of whom are deceased) through conversations with relatives who are most familiar with their experiences. Who were the main characters that took part in this historic event? What did they hope to achieve? Why did they choose to become involved? What impact did they have upon the larger community?

This documentary is narrated by Bill Kurtis, a Kansas native and distinguished graduate of Washburn University School of Law in Topeka. Formerly a co-anchor on The CBS Morning News, Mr. Kurtis now operates his own production company in Chicago, producing series such as Investigative Reports and American Justice for the Arts and Entertainment Network.

An acclaimed documentary host and producer, network and major market news anchor and multimedia production company president, Bill Kurtis has spent the past 35 years creating a body of work that is virtually unparalleled in the field of broadcasting. Born in Florida and raised in Independence, Kansas, Mr. Kurtis graduated from The University of Kansas with a B.S. in Journalism. He attended Washburn University School of Law where he was awarded a Juris Doctor.

Mr. Kurtis began his television career at WIBW-TV (CBS) in Topeka, Kansas. In 1966, after being recognized for his 24-hour coverage of a devastating tornado, Mr. Kurtis was hired by WBBM-TV in Chicago where he was a field reporter and later Anchor of The Channel Two News. Mr. Kurtis moved on to the Network level at CBS where he was the Anchor of the CBS Morning News and a contributor to CBS Reports. Returning to Chicago and WBBM-TV as Anchor in 1985, Mr. Kurtis began his career as a documentarian traveling to the far ends of the earth for the Peabody Award winning series The New Explorers. In 1990, he founded Kurtis Productions and began producing programs for the A&E Television Network such as the long-running award-winning Investigative Reports and Cold Case Files. He also anchors American Justice for the network.

In his home state of Kansas, Mr. Kurtis is a rancher, a radio station owner, an art gallery owner, a small businessman, a supporter of small town America and an active conservationist. His 10,000-acre Red Buffalo Ranch is a working cattle ranch, marketing organic grass-fed beef.

Other nationally recognized television journalists have joined with station KTWU (PBS) Topeka by adding their talents to the production of BLACK/WHITE & BROWN: Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka.
Reading the words of Chief Justice Earl Warren is Walter Cronkite, the former CBS Evening News anchorman, whose commentary defined issues and events in America for almost two decades. He earlier had been a correspondent for United Press International, reporting on World War II from both North Africa and Europe. After World War II, Cronkite covered the Nuremberg War Trials and then served as United Press bureau chief in Moscow. He began his career with CBS News in 1950 as a correspondent covering the Korean War.
For 19 years Cronkite served as the anchorman for the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, covering the Civil Rights movement, the John F. Kennedy assassination, the first moon walk, and earning the reputation as "the most trusted man in America." In 1981 upon his retirement, Cronkite continued to serve as a CBS News special correspondent and a member of the network's board of directors and has continued to host television programs. He has also written his autobiography, "A Reporter's Life," which he published at 80.

Gwen Ifill reports the news to PBS viewers virtually every weeknight. She is the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week, for 36 years a Friday evening staple on PBS, and is also a senior correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, the honored PBS nightly newscast. Prior to coming to public broadcasting, Ifill was chief congressional correspondent for NBC News. She came to television after an honored career in print journalism, covering the White House for The New York Times and politics for The Washington Post.

Ifill will be reading a letter written by Lucinda Todd in 1950, who was then secretary of the local NAACP chapter and a Topeka school teacher. The letter, written to Executive NAACP Secretary Walter White, asked for assistance in the Topeka branch for their efforts to desegregate local schools.
Jim Lehrer, reading the comments of Judge Walter Huxman, is Executive Editor and Anchor of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer airing nightly on PBS television stations around the country. He and fellow journalist Robert MacNeil started the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, the first 60-minute evening news program on television, and has continued the program since MacNeil retired in 1995. Lehrer has been honored with numerous awards for journalism, including a presidential National Humanities Medal in 1999. In the last four presidential elections, he moderated nine of the nationally televised candidate debates. "No Certain Rest" is Lehrer's thirteenth novel; his fourteenth, "Flying Crows," will be published in June 2004.
Bill Moyers established Public Affairs Television as an independent production company in 1986, and has produced more than 200 hours of programming including In Search of the Constitution, A Gathering of Men with Robert Bly, Facing Hate with Elie Wiesel, Listening to America with Bill Moyers, and Healing and the Mind. He currently hosts the weekly news commentary program, NOW, on PBS. Five of Moyers' books based on his television series have become best sellers.
During his 30 years in the media, Moyers has received numerous awards for excellence and more than 30 Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In addition to broadcasting, Moyers was Deputy Director of the Peace Corps in the Kennedy Administration and special Assistant to President Johnson from 1963-1967. Moyers will read from a document known as The Southern Manifesto, which was issued as a defiant response to the Brown decision by a contingent of legislators.

The documentary also includes archival footage featuring presidential addresses and commentary from President Eisenhower and President Truman as well as Thurgood Marshall, who went on to become a noted justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

This program is initially being broadcast in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling on more than 80 television stations around the nation. The program is also being made available for educational uses in schools and public libraries.

The production of BLACK/WHITE & BROWN is made possible by financial support from Washburn University School of Law, celebrating 100 years of excellence in legal education; the Kansas Humanities Council, a nonprofit cultural organization encouraging the appreciation of history, heritage and values; Hallmark Cards, in recognition of public television's role in providing excellent programming; and from viewers of local public
television.

KTWU (PBS) in Topeka, Kansas has produced the new television program BLACK/WHITE & BROWN. KTWU has been broadcasting local public television (PBS) in eastern Kansas and portions of Nebraska, Missouri and Oklahoma since 1965. KTWU also broadcasts a signal on digital channel 23. The station license is held by Washburn University with studios located on the campus in Topeka, Kansas.

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