Papers Document Extraordinary Legacy

close up of Taylor papers: Presentation by William L. Taylor, General Counsel
April 19, 2012

George Washington’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development will host a celebration today of the legacy of William Taylor, a civil rights attorney and lobbyist who was instrumental in the fight to desegregate America’s public schools. Mr. Taylor’s papers are housed in Gelman Library’s Special Collections Research Center. They were donated to the university by Mr. Taylor’s children after his death in 2010.

“Education and Civil Rights: A Celebration of the William Taylor Papers” will be held at 4 p.m. on the 7th floor of Gelman Library. The event will feature a panel discussion with three leaders in the areas of education and civil rights: De'Shawn Wright, Washington, D.C.’s, deputy mayor for education; Liliana Garces, GW assistant professor of higher education administration; and Ralph Neas, president of the National Coalition on Health Care and past executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

Terri Harris Reed, GW’s vice provost for diversity and inclusion, who will also make remarks at the event, said the panelists will focus on the need for continued attention to educational equity.

“The panelists’ reflections will address, among other things, the need for devoted attention, creativity and collaboration across all sectors of society and academic disciplines, if we are going to address one of the most important civil rights issue that continues to plague our nation,” she said. “The university provides an ideal platform from which to grapple with this national imperative, and Bill’s legacy of dedication, advocacy and tenacious pursuit of equality provides an extraordinary backdrop.”

Michael Feuer, dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, will moderate the panel discussion. Dr. Feuer worked with Mr. Taylor’s family to secure the William Taylor papers for GW’s Special Collections Research Center.

“We are honored to have this very special archive, and know that Bill would be proud and happy to see how his efforts to improve educational opportunities for all children are continuing,” Dr. Feuer said. “The future of civil rights and education in America will depend on our willingness and ability to bring the best scholarship to the issues, and we are very grateful to Bill's family and friends for entrusting us with parts of his remarkable legacy.”

As a lawyer, Mr. Taylor collaborated closely with future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall at the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund in 1950s and ’60s, working on cases that arose after Brown v. Board of Education ordered an end to segregation in public schools. Mr. Taylor also served on the United States Commission on Civil Rights, where his work helped lead to passage of the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act and Fair Housing Act. Later in his career, he advocated for educational equality for all children, and in 2002, Mr. Taylor help draft the No Child Left Behind Act.

The William L. Taylor Papers contains 80 boxes of material—legal papers, speeches, published works and correspondence documenting Mr. Taylor’s involvement in historic moments of U.S. history. Researchers may view most of the material in its original format, though some audio interviews originally recorded on cassette tapes have been digitized, said Meredith Evans Raiford, director of the Special Collections Research Center.

“This collection is a rich example of how education policy is formed and upheld,” Dr. Raiford said. “Bill Taylor played an instrumental role in the civil rights movement. working with the NAACP and Civil Rights Commission. His papers reflect his knowledge and legal expertise that helped change how people viewed race and education in this country.”


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