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Winter 1977, Volume 43, Number 4

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Kansas Memory has been created by the Kansas State Historical Society to share its historical collections via the Internet. Read more.

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Education - Segregation and desegregation - Brown v. Board

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8,000 students affected, state officials see no trouble adjusting schools to new rule

8,000 students affected, state officials see no trouble adjusting schools to new rule
Creator: Topeka Journal
Date: May 17, 1954
This article discusses how the state of Kansas will work to conform to the ruling made in the Brown v. Board of Education decision on May 17, 1954. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that the segregation of schools based on race was unconstitutional. Many cities in Kansas, including Topeka, Atchison, Salina, Wichita, and Pittsburg were already working to integrate their schools. Topeka had an estimated 625 African American students who would be affected by the court's ruling, and the article lists the numbers for other cities and towns in the state.


Airmail Special Letter: Robert Carter to Mckinley Burnett

Airmail Special Letter: Robert Carter to Mckinley Burnett
Date: March 31, 1953
Attorney Robert Carter acknowledges receipt of a copy of a letter from McKinley Burnett sent with an enclosed memo from Superintendent of Topeka Schools, Kenneth McFarland. Carter advises Burnett that if the McFarland proceeds in this (possible dismissal of Negro teachers) he would immediately initiate a court action. Carter further advises that he would be in Des Moines and that he would be happy to meet any teachers who have received "these notices."


Alvin and Lucinda Todd family in Topeka, Kansas

Alvin and Lucinda Todd family in Topeka, Kansas
Date: 1946
A photograph of the Todd family (left to right) Alvin, Nancy and Lucinda, taken in Topeka, Kansas. Lucinda Todd was a participant in the Brown vs Topeka Board of Education landmark U.S. Supreme Court case to desegregate schools. She was also the secretary of the Topeka NAACP which brought the Legal Defense Fund to Topeka.


Attorney Robert Carter to McKinley Burnett

Attorney Robert Carter to McKinley Burnett
Date: September 14, 1951
This letter dated September 14, 1951, is from NAACP Assistant Special Counsel Robert L. Carter to Topeka NAACP Chapter President McKinley Burnett. Carter advises Burnett that the National Chapter of the NAACP would require $5,000 to take the Brown case to the United States Supreme Court. However, Carter explained that the money would have to be raised locally and that nearby NAACP chapters could contribute if they so desired.


Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka: The case of the century

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka: The case of the century
Creator: Kansas Bar Association
Date: 2004
Produced by the Kansas Bar Association, this 70-minute video features a reenactment of the 1952 and 1953 oral arguments presented to the United States Supreme Court in the landmark school segregation case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.


Charles E. Bledsoe to the NAACP Legal Department

Charles E. Bledsoe to the NAACP Legal Department
Creator: Bledsoe, Charles E.
Date: September 5, 1950
In the letter, Charles E. Bledsoe, attorney for the Topeka Chapter of the NAACP, outlines the general nature of Topeka's situation as influenced by local laws. In particular, Bledsoe refers to the Kansas Permissive Law of 1879 that allowed individual school districts to segregate schools if they so desired. However, the law did not mandate school segregation in Kansas. The response to this letter is Kansas Memory item #213410.


Charles I. Baston interview

Charles I. Baston interview
Creator: Baston, Charles I.
Date: May 14, 1992
Charles Baston was born in Lee's Summit, Missouri, on April 24, 1917. He attended grade school and junior high school while still living in Lee's Summit, and after junior high he moved to Topeka to attend the Kansas Vocational Technical School. He moved to Topeka permanently after his World War II discharge. Baston was a member of the executive committee of the local chapter of the NAACP during the Brown v. Board hearings. Much of his interview deals with the NAACPs role in finding plaintiffs in the Brown case, the problem with busing students to segregated schools, and other individuals who were instrumental to the success of this suit. Towards the end of the interview he also talks about how the Brown decision has not reached its full potential because of the racial prejudices that still exist today. Jean VanDelinder conducted the interview. The Brown v. Board oral history project was funded by Hallmark Cards Inc., the Shawnee County Historical Society, the Brown Foundation for Educational Excellence, Equity, and Research, the National Park Service, and the Kansas Humanities Council. Parts of the interview may be difficult to hear due to the quality of the original recording.


Chris Hansen interview

Chris Hansen interview
Creator: Hansen, Chris
Date: October 5, 1992
Chris Hansen was an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, starting in 1973. In 1984, after the Brown v. Board desegregation case was reopened, Hansen served on the legal team working on this case. The ACLU was representing 17 children and their parents who claimed that the Topeka USD501 district had not fully complied with the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring segregated schools unconstitutional. The case went before the Federal District Court in October 1986, and four years later after an appeal, the court ruled in favor of the petitioners, stating that Topeka Public Schools had not fully complied with the court decision to desegregate. Hansen's interview discusses his involvement in the case, the plaintiffs (including Linda Brown Smith) and his experiences in Topeka. The interview was conducted by Jean VanDelinder. The Brown v. Board oral history project was funded by Hallmark Cards Inc., the Shawnee County Historical Society, the Brown Foundation for Educational Excellence, Equity, and Research, the National Park Service, and the Kansas Humanities Council.


Christina Jackson interview

Christina Jackson interview
Creator: Jackson, Christina
Date: September 20, 1991
Christina Jackson was born on August 15, 1926, in Topeka, Kansas, to Georgia and Jess Edwards. In this interview, Jackson speaks about her experiences at the segregated Washington Elementary School and then at the integrated East Topeka Junior High and Topeka High School. According to Jackson, Washington had very strict teachers who emphasized the importance of learning about African American history. Her children attended Monroe School and, after desegregation, moved to State Street School, which had formerly been a school for white children only. Her children recalled that the faculty at State Street worked hard to integrate the black students, who were for the most part accepted by their peers. It was not until her children entered Holliday Junior High that they struggled with racial discrimination and derogatory comments. Jackson also discusses her work experiences and involvement in social clubs and volunteer organizations. This interview was conducted by Jean VanDelinder and Ralph Crowder. The Brown v. Board oral history project was funded by Hallmark Cards Inc., the Shawnee County Historical Society, the Brown Foundation for Educational Excellence, Equity, and Research, the National Park Service and the Kansas Humanities Council. Parts of the interview may be difficult to hear due to the quality of the original recording.


Discrimination persists, Smith says

Discrimination persists, Smith says
Creator: Knudsen, Gwyn
Date: October 15, 1986
This article in the Topeka Capital-Journal focuses on Linda Brown Smith who, along with her father Oliver Brown, were plaintiffs in the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education. Linda Smith had recently testified in a federal court about her experiences attended segregated schools in Topeka, including the Monroe school. Smith was called to the stand as a witness in a re-hearing of the Brown v. Board case to determine whether or not there were still some elements of institutional racial segregation in the Topeka school system. Smith, a plaintiff in the re-opened case, believed that racial discrimination still existed in the schools.


Elisha J. Scott

Elisha J. Scott
Date: Between 1950 and 1959
Elisha J. Scott, 1890-1963, was raised in Topeka's Tennesseetown. As a youth, he possessed a strong drive and a quick wit, which attracted the eye of prominent Topeka minister Charles M. Sheldon. With financial support from Sheldon and his own abilities to succeed, Scott earned his law degree from Washburn College in 1916. During his long career as an attorney, he argued many civil rights and school segregation cases throughout Kansas and the Midwest. Two of Scott's sons, John and Charles, joined him in his law firm of Scott, Scott, Scott, and Jackson. Together they helped to prosecute, at the local level, the landmark civil rights case of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.


First and second grade students at Sumner Grade School in Topeka, Kansas

First and second grade students at Sumner Grade School in Topeka, Kansas
Creator: Schrock, John Edward
Date: April 13, 1950
This is a photograph showing first and second grade students at Sumner Grade School in Topeka, Kansas. The teacher is Bernice Avery.


First grade students at Sumner Grade School in Topeka, Kansas

First grade students at Sumner Grade School in Topeka, Kansas
Creator: Schrock, John Edward
Date: January 26, 1955
This is a photograph showing first grade students at Sumner Grade School in Topeka, Kansas. The teacher is Miss Andre and the principal is Richard Harder.


Five of state's first-class cities end school segregation

Five of state's first-class cities end school segregation
Creator: Topeka Capital
Date: December 4, 1955
This article describes how Kansas schools had begun?and in some cases completed?the process of desegregation after the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board declared that segregated educational facilities were unconstitutional. Lawrence, Salina, and Atchison had completed integration, while Wichita, Kansas City, and Topeka were still in the process of implementing their plans. In some cases the integration plans were attacked; for instance, in Topeka, students were allowed to continue attending their old school through the sixth grade, a move that some believed was simply reinforcing segregation. Prior to the Brown decision in 1954, only cities with populations over 15,000 ("first-class" cities) were allowed to have segregated grade schools, and some towns, like Pittsburg, had abolished segregated schools before the Brown case.


For the Negro Press: Suit Hits Separate Schools in Kansas

For the Negro Press: Suit Hits Separate Schools in Kansas
Creator: Todd, Lucinda Wilson, 1903-1996
Date: 1951
Copy of Lucinda Todd's 1951 handwritten news release outlining the legal actions underway, explaining the causes, and listing the names of the attorneys filing the actions associated with the effort of several Topeka families to have their children attend white schools.


Fred Rausch Jr. interview

Fred Rausch Jr. interview
Creator: Rausch, Fred
Date: October 12, 1994
Fred Rausch, Jr. grew up in East Topeka and attended Parkdale Elementary School, Lincoln Junior High, and East Topeka Junior High. Rausch was elected to the Topeka School Board in 1957, shortly after the Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision that declared segregated educational facilities unconstitutional. He was partially responsible for the integration of teachers. When the school board attempted to place African American teachers in positions at formerly white schools they encountered harsh opposition from both white and black parents. He recalls that this furor died down after a few years. Rausch also discusses how the school districts were rearranged so that children attended a grade school that was no more than six blocks from their home, although he vehemently maintains that the school board never gerrymandered districts for racial purposes. While he admits that, sociologically, integration may have improved students' feelings of self-worth, he is not convinced that integration has improved students' learning abilities and overall education. Rausch left the Topeka Board of Education two years before the Brown case was reopened in 1979. Cheryl Brown Henderson conducted the interview. The Brown v. Board oral history project was funded by Hallmark Cards Inc., the Shawnee County Historical Society, the Brown Foundation for Educational Excellence, Equity, and Research, the National Park Service and the Kansas Humanities Council. Parts of the interview may be difficult to hear due to the quality of the original recording.


Harold Fatzer to Chief Justice Earl Warren

Harold Fatzer to Chief Justice Earl Warren
Creator: Fatzer, Harold R
Date: May 20, 1954
Harold Fatzer, attorney general of Kansas, wrote this letter to the chief justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, Earl Warren, three days after Warren handed down his decision in the case Brown v. Board of Education. In it, Fatzer congratulates Warren on the conclusion of the case and his well-written opinion and notes that, while he himself was personally opposed to segregation, his office had felt it necessary to "sustain the Kansas statute." He also mentions that the integration process in Kansas should be completed within two years.


Harold R. Fatzer to J. Lindsay Almond Jr.

Harold R. Fatzer to J. Lindsay Almond Jr.
Creator: Fatzer, Harold R
Date: July 13, 1951
In this letter, Attorney General of Kansas Harold Fatzer responds to a letter by J. Lindsay Almond, Attorney General of Virginia. Almond had inquired about a school segregation suit against the Topeka Board of Education. Fatzer mentions a similar case in South Carolina, Briggs v. Elliott, and states that the plaintiffs in the Topeka case were arguing that segregation violated their rights under the 14th Amendment. Virginia would later join Kansas as one of the five states represented in the case Brown v. Board of Education. This case reached the U. S. Supreme Court, and in 1954 segregated school facilities were declared unconstitutional. Attached to this letter is Almond's initial inquiry.


Integration plan offered by state

Integration plan offered by state
Creator: Mack, George, 1907-1986
Date: May 11, 1955
According to this article, the Topeka Board of Education had passed a resolution that would desegregate all schools by the start of classes in the fall. Even before the Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board (1954), the Topeka school board began developing a plan that would create integrated schools. The office of the attorney general offered input and provided the Supreme Court with a four-point decree that would apply to all Kansas school districts. This office also included some information about how integration would influence the student bodies of Topeka elementary schools, as well as a list of the percentage of white and black students estimated for each elementary school.


J. W. Cummings to Harold Fatzer

J. W. Cummings to Harold Fatzer
Creator: Cummings, J. W.
Date: November 27, 1953
In this letter J. W. Cummings, a resident of Kansas City, Kansas, appeals to state attorney general Harold Fatzer to not desegregate public schools. According to Cummings, integration would lead to miscegenation and would be the downfall of society. He writes that "we must keep our country great by not permitting a Policing action forcing communities into a like pattern, forming a state against our will. We must have the liberty of community majority choice, to accept or reject the kind of life our children live." He also believed that those causing this "unrest" were violating the principles of democracy and had been unduly influenced by Communist doctrine.


Jack Alexander, separate but equal in Topeka: a personal oral history

Jack Alexander, separate but equal in Topeka: a personal oral history
Creator: Kansas State Historical Society
Date: 2014
This is an oral history of Jack Alexander, the 2014 President of the Kansas Historical Foundation Board of Directors. Jack recounts his work in public service as well as his time growing up in Topeka pre- and post-Brown v. Board of Education.


Jean Price interview

Jean Price interview
Creator: Price, Jean
Date: February 12, 1992
Jean (Scott) Price was born in Wichita, Kansas, on June 16, 1929, and attended segregated schools from the first through eighth grades. She then attended the integrated North High School. For a short time she lived in Kansas City, Kansas and attended the segregated Sumner High School. She graduated from North High School in Wichita and later on from Wichita University (now Wichita State University) with a degree in teaching. She also received her master's in education from Emporia State. After moving to Topeka in 1956, Price accepted a job at the Parkdale School where she was the only teacher of African-American descent. After the Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in 1954, Parkdale became integrated. She also taught at the Lowman Hill School. According to her interview, she generally got along well with her students' parents and school officials, even though some were opposed to desegregation. The interview was conducted by Jean VanDelinder.


Judge Robert Lee Carter interview

Judge Robert Lee Carter interview
Creator: Carter, Robert Lee, 1917-
Date: October 5, 1992
This interview with Judge Robert Lee Carter was conducted by Jean VanDelinder. Carter was part of the Brown vs Topeka Board of Education legal team. He assisted the Topeka NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) attorneys in developing their case against the Topeka Board of Education. Note: the audio quality of this recording is very poor making the interview difficult to hear. A transcription of the interview is available under "Text Version" below.


Lucinda Todd to Walter White

Lucinda Todd to Walter White
Creator: Todd, Lucinda Wilson, 1903-1996
Date: August 29, 1950
First Letter from the Lucinda Todd, of the Topeka Chapter of the NAACP, to NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White. In the letter, Todd outlines the problems in Topeka and the fact that the Topeka Chapter of the NAACP wants to test the limits of Kansas law regarding segregated schools. The letter eventually led to the involvement of the NAACP and the arrival of the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and Executive team to the Todd home in Topeka for Brown case strategy sessions.


Major problem in Kansas--negro teachers hit by desegregation

Major problem in Kansas--negro teachers hit by desegregation
Creator: Murphy, Anna Mary
Date: January 29, 1956
This article describes how the desegregation of schools in the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education case would affect black schoolteachers across Kansas. The author gives the example of Topeka where, when the school board began desegregating schools prior to the final decision in the Brown case, black teachers lost their jobs. Although the school board wanted to "avoid any disruption of the professional life of career teachers," many schools were hesitant to place black teachers in classrooms containing both white and black students. Members of the black community who had opposed the Brown v. Board case at the local level had feared that integration would apply only to students, not to teachers, and it appeared to some that this would in fact be the case.


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