Michelle Obama: Education Is Today’s Important Civil-Rights Issue

By Sheryl Estrada

According to First Lady Michelle Obama, education in America should be viewed as a civil-rights issue.

On Feb. 20, Mrs. Obama hosted “Celebrating Women of the Movement,” a Black History Month panel discussion in the East Room of the White House.

“Like many of you, I believe that education is the single most important civil-rights issue that we face today,” Mrs. Obama said.

Many students attend “crumbling schools” that don’t have access to technologies or college preparation, and when children fall behind in school, they most likely fall behind in life, she explained. She also addressed the graduation rate of Black students.

“While we should be proud the high-school graduation rate for Black students is improving, it is still lower than just about any other group in this country,” Mrs. Obama said.

She also offered that the rate of college graduation for Black males has “flatlined.”

Mrs. Obama explained education could help solve issues like mass incarceration, poverty, racial profiling, voting rights and the “kinds of challenges that shocked so many of us over the past year,” which appears to be a reference to the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner by police officers.

Leading up to her statement on education and civil rights, the First Lady described the struggles and triumphs of panelists who pursued education during the civil-rights era.

Award-winning journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault was the first Black woman to attend the University of Georgia, and Carlotta Walls LaNier was one of the Little Rock Nine, the group of students who integrated Little Rock Central High School. Federal troops were eventually sent by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to escort them.

“Once these young people made it inside the building, they were bullied, spat on, physically abused by their classmates,” Mrs. Obama said of the Little Rock Nine. “But Carlotta and the other students kept showing up, and kept studying and kept working hard.”

After she graduated high school and college, LaNier started her own company. She is President of the Little Rock Foundation, which provides scholarships for young people.

“Her first night on campus, she heard a chant ‘2-4-6-8, we don’t want to integrate,'” Mrs. Obama said of Hunter-Gault’s experience at the University of Georgia.

She was suspended and sent home by the school out of concern for her safety, the First Lady explained. Hunter-Gault returned to complete her studies and graduate. She has had a successful career as a journalist.

“Those are just two of countless stories about how folks who came before us stayed hungry for their education and paved the way for those who came after them, including me and so many in this room,” Mrs. Obama said. “And today, thanks to their sacrifice, there are no angry mobs gathering outside our schools. Nobody needs a military escort to get to class, but that doesn’t mean that our children don’t still face struggles when it comes to education.”

The First Lady encouraged young people in the audience to learn from the victories of the panelists.

“That means going to class every dayevery day,” she said. “No matter what obstacle life may throw your way, go to school. Go to the bad school that you have. Go to school.”

Latest News

women in politics

Women Remain Vastly Underrepresented in Local Government, Despite Conventional Wisdom Suggesting Otherwise

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sat behind President Biden during his first speech to a joint session of Congress on April 28 — representing the first time two women held such important and high-ranking political offices. Even after such a historic moment, the reality…

voter restriction

Florida Follows Georgia’s Lead, Approves Racist Anti-Voter Restrictions Aimed Primarily at Democrats and People of Color

Not content with letting Georgia be the only state in the South demonized for its bigoted and racist attacks on voter rights, Florida has jumped into the fray in issuing its own series of new and highly controversial “Jim Crow-esque” anti-voting restrictions aimed specifically at disenfranchising Democrats and voters of…

Kentucky Derby

Inspired by Protests Over Breonna Taylor’s Death, Humana and Kentucky Derby Festival Launch Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in Louisville

Ahead of the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1, Kentucky Derby officials and Humana (No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) have announced a new equity initiative meant to make the race more accessible and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age…

crimes against human ity

‘Crime Against Humanity’; Global Report Says the US Should Be Prosecuted in International Criminal Court for Ongoing Police Murders of Black Americans

In what has been described as a “devastating” report, human rights experts and lawyers have investigated and released a 188-page analysis of the ongoing police brutality and killing of Black Americans in the U.S. Their verdict: the country is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and should be prosecuted for its…

Tokyo, Olympics

Tokyo Olympics to Encourage Significant Increase in Gender Equality Among Event’s Corporate Sponsors

Besides simply being a showcase for some of the most talented and athletic men and women on the planet, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are hoping their event this summer can also help promote significant change in corporate culture, both in Japan and around the globe. Bloomberg’s Ayai Tomisawa…

AbbVie Joins Over 400 Leading US Employers in the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Business Coalition for the Equality Act’

Originally published on LinkedIn. AbbVie ranked No. 19 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   AbbVie has joined a group of over 400 corporations and leading U.S. employers to support the Human Rights Campaign’s “Business Coalition for the Equality Act,” an initiative advocating for federal…

Accenture and Goodwill Develop Virtual Experience To Help People Impacted by the Criminal Justice System Enter the Workforce

Originally published at prnewswire.com. Accenture is ranked No. 5 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   Goodwill Industries International has teamed with Accenture to develop an innovative virtual experience called Project Overcome. The experience is designed for people impacted by the criminal justice system who want to…