Jaffee and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Mark Thurgood Marshall Day in NY State and the 60th Anniversary of the Supreme Court Decision Ending Segregation in Public Schools

May 17, 2014

Pearl River, NY – On Saturday, May 17th, in recognition of Thurgood Marshall Day in New York State, the Rockland County Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee, (D-Suffern) marked the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown V. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, which ended racial segregation in America’s public schools.

Thurgood Marshall, the first African American United States Supreme Court Justice, has been hailed as one of our Nation’s strongest champions for equal rights and one of the most renowned figures of the civil rights movement in America, best known for representing the NAACP before the Supreme Court in the case Brown vs. Board of Education. It was not his first school desegregation victory: In 1943 Marshall stood with a group of African American families and successfully argued for the desegregation of the Main School, now known as the Hillburn School in the Village of Hillburn, Rockland County.

In remembrance of this watershed period in our local and national history, and the man who devoted his life’s work to equality for all people, Assemblymember Jaffee read a letter sent for the occasion from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote:

“I applaud your efforts to celebrate Thurgood Marshall. In my view, he is the greatest advocate in our Nation’s history. His legal skill is legendary, and he often put his life at risk in the struggle for justice, equal and impartial for all. In my own work as an advocate, and now as a judge, his wisdom, courage, and dedication have guided and inspired me.”

The commemorative celebration also included remarks from Historian, Dr. Travis Jackson, one of 49 children who attended the segregated Brook school; Congresswoman Nita Lowey; Rockland County Executive, Ed Day; Village of Hillburn Mayor, Craig Flannagan, Jr.; and Student Essay contest winner, August St. Louis.

The Keynote Address was given by Dr. Willie L. Bryant, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and

Eta Chi Lambda Historian.

The Rockland County Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, working with the Ramapo Central School District and the Village of Hillburn, NY, proudly erected a monument in 2002 to honor Thurgood Marshall, who was an Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brother. Since its founding on December 4, 1906, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. has supplied voice and vision to the struggle of African-Americans and people of color around the world.

Alpha Phi Alpha, Assemblymember Jaffee, the Ramapo Central School District, the Village of Hillburn, former Rockland County Legislator William Darden and others have contributed to the planning, design, and placement of the Thurgood Marshall monument, walkway and flower bed projects. The monument and walkway beautification projects were funded through NYS Special Legislative Grants and contributions from local supporters.

Assemblymember Jaffee wrote the law that in 2008 first designated May 17th as Thurgood Marshall Day in New York State.

Jaffee said, “I am proud to have introduced and sponsored legislation that designates May 17th as Thurgood Marshall Day in New York State. In creating a day to honor Thurgood Marshall we ensure that the State of New York and its residents not only commemorate this civil rights pioneer but remember the distinguished, groundbreaking career of the late Justice Marshall.”

Assemblymember Jaffee together with Ramapo Central School District, The Village of Hillburn and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity is moving forward on getting historical designation for the site, work she began two years ago.