John Brittain of the University of Connecticut School of Law, who worked on the landmark school desegragation case Sheff v. O’Neill, will be celebrated in Hartford on Thursday.
Brittain began his time teaching at the University of Connecticut, taking a position as a professor for the UConn School of Law from 1977 to 1999, Brittain said in a phone interview. He said he moved to a home in Hartford, where he was able to discover his passion and soon to be influential role in the Sheff v. O’Neill case.
The Sheff v. O’Neill case focused on desegregation of schools in Connecticut.
According to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Sheff v. O’Neill is “a longstanding school desegregation case against the State of Connecticut that seeks to address the extreme racial and economic segregation of students in the city of Hartford in relation to its surrounding suburbs.”
“I AM A NATIVE. I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN NORWALK, CT. I ATTENDED PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN NORWALK UNTIL I WENT TO HOWARD FOR MY GRADUATE AND UNDERGRAD.”John Brittain
Brittain said his passion for the Sheff v. O’Neill case was inspired by his own racial background and origins in Connecticut.
“I am a native. I was born and raised in Norwalk, CT. I attended public schools in Norwalk until I went to Howard for my graduate and undergrad,” Brittain said.
While the case was brought by the plaintiffs in 1989, , a court decision was finalized just last year. The honor being celebrated in Brittain’s name in Hartford will recognize his involvement throughout the case’s history.
“The honor, for me, focuses on my involvement with a landmark school desegregation case in 1966. The case decision was finalized with local courts this past January in 2022,” Brittain said. “Thirty-three years after the litigation started. I was one of the lawyers who started the case.”
Brittain stated that although he moved on to various other job positions and universities throughout his ongoing career, his 22 years at UConn were some of the most influential.
“The event is being held in the Reading Room of William F. Starr Hall on the School of Law campus at 55 Elizabeth Street in Hartford. It will also be livestreamed. Advance registration is required,” a UConn Law faculty member said.
“THE HONOR, FOR ME, FOCUSES ON MY INVOLVEMENT WITH A LANDMARK SCHOOL DESEGREGATION CASE IN 1966. THE CASE DECISION WAS FINALIZED WITH LOCAL COURTS THIS PAST JANUARY IN 2022. THIRTY-THREE YEARS AFTER THE LITIGATION STARTED. I WAS ONE OF THE LAWYERS WHO STARTED THE CASE.”John Brittain
“Professor Brittain was the first tenured Black professor at the UConn School of Law, and his influence on the students and on the culture of the law school has been profound,” said Eboni S. Nelson, dean of the UConn School of Law. “In his 22 years at the law school, his classes, his activism and his example opened minds, changed lives and had a lasting effect on the careers and world view of many alumni.”
Additional information about the event can be found at the UConn Foundation event calendar regarding other speakers and registration information.
“As we encounter what sometimes seem like intractable problems in society and in the law, it’s important to celebrate the success of trailblazers like Professor Brittain,” Nelson said. “His perseverance in the Sheff case, a struggle that lasted for decades, demonstrates that justice can prevail when giving up is not considered an option. He is a much-needed source of inspiration to us all.”