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Biden is marking the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education amid concerns about Black support

President Biden this week marked the 70th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that ended institutionalized racial segregation in public schools by welcoming plaintiffs and family members in the landmark case to the White House.

The Oval Office visits Thursday to commemorate the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education The decision to desegregate schools comes as Biden steps up efforts to emphasize his administration’s commitment to racial equality.

The president courted black voters in Atlanta and Milwaukee this week with a pair of black radio interviews in which he promoted his record on jobs, health care and infrastructure and attacked Republican Donald Trump.

Mr. Biden will deliver speeches Friday at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and — along with Vice President Kamala Harris — meet with leaders of the Divine Nine, a group of historically black sororities and fraternities. And the president will deliver the commencement address on Sunday at Morehouse College, the historically black college in Atlanta, and speak at an NAACP gala in Detroit.

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During Thursday’s visit by litigants and their families, much of the conversation focused on honoring plaintiffs and the ongoing fight to strengthen education in Black communities, participants said.

“He commended them for changing our nation for the better and pledged to continue his fight to bring us closer to the promise of America,” senior White House adviser Stephen Benjamin told reporters after the meeting.

Mr. Biden faces a tough re-election fight in November and wants to repeat his 2020 success with black voters, a key bloc in helping him defeat Trump. But polling from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research throughout Mr. Biden’s term shows a widespread sense of disappointment with his performance as president, even among some of his most loyal supporters, including Black adults.

“I don’t accept the premise that there has been any erosion of black support” for Biden, said NAACP President Derrick Johnson, who took part in the Oval Office visit. “This election is not about candidate A versus candidate B. It’s about whether we have a functioning democracy or something less than that.”

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Among those who participated in the meeting were John Stokes, a Brown plaintiff; Cheryl Brown Henderson, whose father, Oliver Brown, was the lead prosecutor in the Brown case; and Adrienne Jennings Bennett, a plaintiff in Boiling v. Sharpe, which simultaneously argued and banned school segregation in Washington, DC. Plaintiffs and family members of litigants from five cases consolidated into the landmark Brown case participated in the meeting.

The Brown decision reversed an 1896 decision that integrated racial segregation with so-called “separate but equal” schools for black and white students, ruling that such accommodations were anything but equal.

Brown Henderson said one of the meeting participants called on the president to make May 17, the day the decision was made, an annual federal holiday. She said Mr. Biden also recognized the courage of the litigants.

“He realized that in the 1950s and 1940s, when Jim Crow was still upside down, that the people you see here were taking a risk when they signed up to be part of this cause,” she said. “Every time you pushed back on Jim Crow and segregation, you know, your lives, your livelihoods, your homes, you took a risk. He thanked them for taking that risk.”

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The announcement last month that Mr. Biden had accepted an invitation to deliver Morehouse’s graduation speech sparked peaceful student protests and calls for the university administration to halt the president’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas.

Mr. Biden sent Benjamin out in recent days to meet with Morehouse students and faculty.

Benjamin told reporters on Thursday that the situation in the Middle East was among the issues he discussed with students and teachers during his visit.

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