Pioneering civil rights family to be honored at May 11 Drury commencement
SPRINGFIELD, Mo., April 24, 2019 — Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of the late Rev. Oliver Brown, will return to Drury University to address graduates during the 2019 spring commencement ceremony, which begins at 11 a.m., Saturday, May 11, at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.
Brown Henderson last visited Drury in August for a celebration of the 100th anniversary of her father’s birth. A civil rights leader and local pastor, Brown is best known as the namesake of the monumental 1954 Supreme Court case to end legal racial segregation in American schools, Brown et al. vs. Board of Education. During the ceremony, Drury will bestow an honorary doctoral degree to Brown in recognition of his contributions to equality and civil rights, which Brown Henderson and other family members will accept on his behalf.
In 1959, Brown and his family moved from Topeka, Kansas, to Springfield where he served as pastor of the Benton Avenue African Methodist Episcopal Church until his death in 1961. During that time, he remained active as a civil rights leader, working to bring equality to his new home. The Benton Avenue church ceased operation in 2013 and was acquired by Drury in 2014. Drury organized the August celebration as a way of honoring the church, its congregation and the Brown family.
During her previous visit, Brown Henderson addressed audiences at Central High School, the school where her eldest sister, Linda, graduated in 1961. She described her father as an ordinary person who was simply seeking to ensure a greater opportunity for the next generation.
“Watching my parents here in Springfield was an example of what commitment, duty and leadership looks like,” she said. “Because what it has required is that we be good stewards of that history. It has required that we use every moment as a teachable moment. It has required that we make certain that the message to this and future generations is one that their work could not have gone in vain.”
About Cheryl Brown Henderson
Brown Henderson is the founding president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, which seeks to preserve and promote the ideals won in the original Brown vs. Boardcase. She has extensive experience as an educator and political advocate, having served on various state and national boards. She is also an experienced speaker, appearing at conferences, universities and on television across the country. On seven different occasions she has been invited to the White House in honor of her work and the work of those who came before her in the struggle for civil rights. Her education includes a bachelor’s in elementary education and a master’s in guidance counseling.
Brown Henderson will speak at the second commencement ceremony of the weekend at Drury. Benjamin Anderson, CEO of Kearny County Hospital in western Kansas, will address graduates of the College of Continuing Professional Studies on Friday evening.