Book By: Brown, M. Christopher II.
Review By: Matthew Church
Academic Advisor, College of Arts & Sciences
University of Louisville

While Brown v Board of Education of Topeka ended school desegregation in the eyes of many,  M. Christopher Brown II believes this is not the case. Brown v Board centered on elementary and secondary education, leaving higher education without an adequate definition of desegregation. In The Quest to Define Collegiate Desegregation, Brown argues that there is still a great need to both define and achieve collegiate desegregation.

Brown uses the application of the Brown case to higher education in Florida ex rel. Hawkins v. Board of Control to provide a foundation for review and analysis of higher education desegregation compliance. Arranged chronologically, Brown focuses on some of the major legal standards pertaining to higher education desegregation in the last forty years. What emerges is an invaluable presentation of the struggle for higher education desegregation.

The text begins with the establishment of a dual system of education after the Plessey v. Ferguson ruling. Proceeding from this landmark case (1896) and its reversal in 1954, Brown traces the attempts to remedy desegregation; he focuses on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which mandated that no institution receiving federal funds could discriminate on basis of race, color, or national origin. Initially, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) was charged with enforcing this statute. However, HEW’s inability to enforce Title VI resulted in Adams v. Richardson (1973) that called for the elimination of the vestiges of dual higher education systems in the South. This case began court ordered monitoring of desegregation policies until the decision was overturned in Women’s Equity Action League v. Cavazos (1990) that forced desegregation to be addressed at the state level.

Brown believes that racial balancing is not the proper way to achieve desegregation. He warns that policy makers tend to favor racial bipolarity, thus viewing all issues in terms of White Americans and African Americans. Brown concludes that any new definition of collegiate desegregation should incorporate the concepts of access, outcomes, equity, equality, and free choice, as well as recognize the continued importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). He also believes in a balance between Title VI and the continued existence of HBCUs is necessary. Finally, Brown believes collegiate desegregation must cease to be focused on the physical alteration of the racial identifiabillity of institutions, but instead focus on the ideals of democracy. While acknowledging that the legal standards of desegregation will continue to evolve, Brown believes there is no reason why collegiate desegregation cannot be achieved.

This is an excellent book for advisors and all other individuals within higher education. The work highlights the continued struggle to define collegiate desegregation. Additionally, Brown’s work serves to stimulate thought regarding desegregation and the truly remarkable accomplishments of HBCUs. As the quest to define collegiate desegregation progresses, higher education will change; this is a development advisors should follow. Brown provides a well-written and meticulously researched work on an issue about which all in higher education, and especially advisors, should be concerned.

The Quest to Define Collegiate Desegregation. (1999). Book by Brown, M. Christopher II. Review by  Matthew Church. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey. $49.95. 167 pp. ISBN# 0-89789-608-4.

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