Business, education and civic leaders have been gathering across the South to commemorate civil rights legislation that laid the groundwork for equity in education. These events were not just times for reflection but for dialogue and action.

A Legacy of Civil Rights: A Promise Unfulfilled


Almost 50 years ago, in Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that sending children to separate schools purely on the basis of race was unconstitutional. Seven years prior to Brown, the Supreme Court ruled that Mexican American children in the Westminster school district in California could not be denied access to public schools or denied quality education because they were Mexican American. Brown vs. Board of Education and Mendez vs. Westminster, Lau vs. Plylar transformed the nature of U.S. public education. But has the promise of quality education been realized for Latino students? More importantly, what must be done to make good on this promise?

The Blueprint Dialogue events offer an invitation to work together on three questions:

  • Building on our nation’s civil rights legacy, what must now be in place to ensure equity and excellence in U.S. education for Latino and African American students?
  • What issues threaten to undermine the spirit of Brown and Mendez and the education of Latino students?
  • What challenges must be faced to realize the true spirit of Brown and Mendez today and into the future?

Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, IDRA executive director

“How can we together create a future in which the color of a child’s skin, the language a child speaks and the side of town that a child comes from are no longer barriers to a great education and a good life?”



Participants outlined many ideas for fulfilling the promise of Brown and Mendez. Here are some highlights.

  • Secure three foundations: We must keep the public in public education; we must press for accountable schools that don’t hurt children; and we must fund schools for the common good
  • Ensure that education in the United States is declared a fundamental civil right
  • Create an expectation that any retreat from school finance equity is unacceptable
  • Provide funding for language acquisition that will meet the demands of our global society and promote the benefits of diversity
  • Create a common discourse on the proper ends of education based on what forms a good and just society and balances both individual and community interests
  • Create lasting partnerships between African American and Latino communities to catalyze local action to ensure the promise of Brown and Mendez are met.
See more ideas

Cross-Race “Blueprint Dialogues for Action”


IDRA designed a series of cross-race, cross-sector community dialogues that gathered African American and Latino community, business and education leaders in various cities throughout the South to address key education issues in each respective community, including equitable funding, ensuring graduation for all, quality schooling and access to higher education. These local one-day forums provided unique opportunities to set aside differences and to work together across sectors and across race. The dialogues were successful in engaging education stakeholders in discussions about key issues and challenges in realizing the spirit of the Mendez and Brown decisions. They also provided information and began to seed new coalitions among groups that seldom have the opportunity to plan positive action for improving education for all children.

The first dialogue, the Latino Pursuit of Excellence and Equity, was one of a series of events taking place around the country to celebrate the Brown vs. Board of Education decision and to advance its promise of quality education for all students. Convened by the Intercultural Development Research Association in collaboration with the Brown vs. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commission and the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, The Latino Pursuit of Excellence and Equity was the only such event to focus on the implications of Brown vs. Board for Latino students. IDRA’s South Central Collaborative for Equity was a key sponsor and organizer of this event.

The Texas Mendez and Brown Blueprint Dialogues for Action, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, built on the momentum of the San Antonio event. Using a cross-sector, multi-racial approach in three communities (Dallas, Houston and Tyler), IDRA convened community leaders to create blueprints for action locally.

With continued support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, IDRA developed this web site and held Blueprint Dialogue events in Albuquerque and Little Rock, which introduced student voices as part of the process.

Following these, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation provided funding to convene Blueprint Dialogue events in New Orleans; Mobile, Alabama; and Canton, Mississippi.