Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom have an excellent, must-read piece in the Wall Street Journal reminding us that, as its 60th anniversary approaches, Brown v. Board of Education has proved to be “an American success story” … and chiding today’s liberals for their refusal to celebrate it, based in good part on their misunderstanding — believe it or not — of what “segregation” is and is not.
Liberals have been misunderstanding Brown almost from the time it was decided, but one of the most striking, as well as one of the saddest, sources of the ubiquitous current misunderstanding can be traced to the faulty memories (I’m being charitable here) of many of the participants in that historic event. Nearly seven years ago, in “Historical Brown-Out,” I began by noting that
[m]y operating system’s built-in dictionary defines “brownout” as “a partial blackout.” That seems to me a pretty good description of what has happened to the memory of what the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and its allies, in and out of court, argued in Brown vs. Board of Education and indeed throughout most of the LDF’s existence (and what the abolitionists and Radical Republicans had argued in the 19th Century).
The remainder of that long post provides chapter and verse contradictions between what a number of the surviving victorious lawyers argued before and during Brown and what they now say they said then. Those glaring contradictions quite starkly demonstrate that historians and others who rely on latter day oral histories to understand the past are all too frequently skating on very thin ice.