Diversity in education is a hot topic right now, as the U.S Supreme Court this week heard oral arguments in the affirmative action challenge Fisher v. University of Texas

Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice is taking a historical view of the topic with a conference on October 12-13 called “Cooper v. Aaron: Between Little Rock and a Hard Place.” The conference will include a re-examination of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1957 Cooper ruling, presided over by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, as well as a discussion with four of the original “Little Rock Nine.” They were the first black students to enroll in Little Rock Central High School in 1957—one of the most important developments in the civil rights movement.

“They are going to speak about the historical context and discuss their own experiences from that time,” said Ernest Owens, a staff assistant at the center who helped to organize the conference. “This conference is about the past, present and future of integration in Americanschools, and how we can develop better systems of racial integration in thefuture.”

The conference will include arguments in a hypothetical case designed to mirror some key elements of Cooper. While not as well known as the seminal 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education that deemed segregation unconstitutional, in Cooper the Court held Brown bound the states even if they disagreed.

University of California, Irvine School of Law dean Erwin Chemerinsky and Harvard law professor Nancy Gertner will argue the case, which will be decided by Breyer and a panel of 10 federal circuitcourt judges. The conference is free an open to the public, but attendees must register in advance.

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com.