Standing before the congregation at New Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church, Dr. James A. Hogan Sr. grabbed the attention of an audience that convened to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education ruling Sunday.
"By vision, by revelation, supervised by the hand of God and fueled by hope in the year of 1952, the NAACP with the counsel of the late Thurgood Marshall and his colleagues brought five cases of segregation to the Supreme Court, wrapped and bundled in a nice neat package, Brown v. Board of Education," Dr. Hogan said.
While addressing an audience of more than 300 people at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's special observance, Dr. Hogan discussed the significance of the decision that outlawed school segregation.
"They argued that segregation in any form of education violated equal protection as promised by the 14th Amendment. So on May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that separate education facilities are inherently unequal," he said.
Dr. Charles Smith, the president of the Augusta branch of the NAACP, said the program's purpose was to remind the public that progress has been made but the struggle is not over.
"Though our Supreme Court made a unanimous decision, we still have to push hard and work to make sure that all the rights that we have fought for in the past remain. We must fight to make sure that they don't send us back to the 1950s and beyond," he said.
Dr. Smith also said the celebration of the decision is meaningful because so many people experienced the effects of the case.
"All of us went through segregation," he said. "Going to school we had pot heaters and the other schools had gas heaters. We didn't have a lunchroom; we had to bring bag lunches. We didn't have buses; we had to walk to school. But now we have buses."
But Dr. Smith said society still has room for improvement.
"There is so much that needs to be done that the struggle for civil rights, the struggle to keep segregation and racism out of the system forever is very important. And I don't think any citizen, regardless of the diversity or ethnic group, need to take for granted that everything is all right. It's not all right."
In addition to the ceremony, Commissioner Betty Beard presented a proclamation to the Augusta branch on behalf of Mayor Bob Young, who was out of town, which declared May 17, 2004, Brown v. Board of Education day. Dr. Hogan was presented a plaque honoring him for his work with the NAACP.
Reach Quandra Collins at (706) 823-3708.