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Friday, April 23, 2004 12:50 pm

Unfinished business

Tracey L. Meares: “Springfield’s still got a lot of work to do.”

University of Chicago Law School professor Tracey Meares will return to her hometown of Springfield on Thursday as the featured speaker celebrating the 50th anniversary of the landmark court case Brown v. Board of Education.

The U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous decision in 1954, which ruled segregation in public schools unconstitutional, strikes a unique chord with Meares.

In 1984, as a 17-year-old African-American senior at Springfield High, Meares boasted the highest grade point average of her class and was slated to be honored as valedictorian.

But apparent racism led top administrators to tamper with Meares' files in an effort to block her designation and instead honor a white classmate as the school's highest achiever.

The alleged discrimination was later cited in a 1987 lawsuit that successfully charged the city of Springfield with holding racially polarized elections violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Meares says she shudders at the ongoing reports of racism in Springfield, referring to the city's recent $830,000 discrimination settlement with former police officer Renatta Frazier.

"Springfield's still got a lot of work to do," Meares says. "The state capital should be a model for the rest of Illinois.

"One hopes the anniversary [of Brown v. Board of Education] is a cause for introspection and important reflection about the relationship between governmental law and race relations in 2004."

"Personal and Professional Reflections on Brown v. Board of Education" begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 29, in the Brookens Auditorium of Brookens Library, UIS. A reception for featured speaker, Dr. Tracey Meares, precedes the forum at 5:30 p.m. in conference rooms C-D, lower level of the Public Affairs Center, UIS. For more information, contact Sara Ann Jones at 206-7889, or by e-mail at gapos@uis.edu.

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