A Family Visit to the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

People Places

In December of 1953, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments on what was to become a landmark case. Brown v. Board of Education lead to the Court striking down the "separate but equal" doctrine which had existed up until that time, making it illegal to segregate the public schools, based on race.

The unanimous decision by the Court was read by Chief Justice Earl Warren on May 17, 1954:

"We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does…We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment."

My family and I recently visited the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. It is housed in the former Monroe Elementary School building, which was once one of four segregated schools for African-Americans in Topeka, Kansas. The museum is small, but well crafted, with multi-media presentations throughout. It depicts the history of race relation in the U.S., particularly with regard to segregation in the public schools, in an effective and thought provoking manner. Even my short-attention-spanned tween-agers remained engaged though the entire self-guided tour.

The Brown v. Board of Education Historic Site is operated and maintained by the National Park Service. It is located just off of I-70 near downtown Topeka, Kansas. The museum is open from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM daily, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Year’s. Admission is free.

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