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Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site


A historic legal battle is honored at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Kansas. In September 1950, Linda Brown was denied admission to Sumner Elementary, an all-white school near her home in Topeka. Instead, she was forced to travel nearly three miles to attend Monroe Elementary, one of three all-black schools in the Midwestern city.

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
©National Park Service
Monroe Elementary was at the center of this historic civil-rights battle.

A year later, her father, Oliver Brown, and 12 other plaintiffs went before the U.S. District Court of Kansas to challenge an 1879 Kansas law that permitted segregated elementary schools. They lost the case, but Thurgood Marshall, an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), argued their appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court in December 1952. Two years later, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that "separate but equal" had no place in the American public education system.

That decision, which many point to as the beginning of the civil rights movement, is honored at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. The focal point of the site is Monroe Elementary at 1515 Monroe Street. Declining enrollment forced the school to close in 1975, but since then, it has undergone renovations. Most of the original wooden doors, floors, and paneling in the school have survived. Sumner School is still an operating elementary school. The site was designated in 1992, nearly 40 years after the landmark ruling.

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic ruling on the Brown v. Board of Education case, Chief Justice Earl Warren stated that, in the Court's opinion, education is the very foundation of good citizenship:

"Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in this life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity ... is a right (that) must be made available to all on equal terms."

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site Information

Address: 1515 SE Monroe Street
Topeka, KS 66612
Phone: 913/354-4273
Hours of Operation: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day
Admission: Free

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.

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