65th Anniversary of Brown v. Board Decision

photo of second graders at desks in Topeka's Monroe School in 1940s

Students at Monroe School in Topeka in 1948.

May 17, 2019, will mark 65 years since the historic decision of Brown v. Board of Education. The landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision ruled that racial segregation of students in public schools was unconstitutional. Topeka played a pivotal role in the decision and holds a permanent place both in the nation’s history and as a global beacon.

“So many efforts are going on in Topeka today to advance the vision of Brown v. Board,” said Topeka Councilwoman Karen Hiller, chairperson of the Brown v. Board Sumner Legacy Trust. “The various events will give us shared time through arts, experiences and conversation to explore the people and strengths of our past, the strengths and challenges of our present, and to explore together whether we want to create a community-wide initiative today to revision what success would look like and to again advance the agenda.”

Highlighted Events

Between May 10 and 19, The 65th Anniversary of Brown v Board: An Unfinished Agenda will offer Topekans a chance to come together in more than 20 events. Included will be a symposium on May 10 featuring keynote speaker Carlton Waterhouse of Howard University and testimony from plaintiff-era Topekans. The first weekend will include premieres of Smoke Behind Closed Doors, a Tyson Williams theatrical production, and DANCE…in Black and White…a movement in desegregation by Steven Massey’s Blaque Onyx Artistic Creatives. Tickets for the theater and dance events are available online, all other events are free.

On Mon, May 13 attend Oral History Day at the library to share memories of your own education experience, impressions of the 1954 Supreme Court decision and its impact and your hopes going forward. Recording will take place in the library’s Make It Lab.
Attend a preview and conversation with Eugene Williams about I Just Want To Testify, KTWU’s documentary about the life and times in Topeka leading up to the Brown case at the Brown v. Board National Historic Site on Wed, May 15 at 6pm. Thu, May 16 will be Film Day starting at 10am at the Jayhawk Theatre. Film Day will culminate in a 7pm showing of Oscar Award-winning BlacKkKlansman and a 9pm conversation with Oscar Award-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott.

Ruben West will be the keynote speaker at the wrap-up symposium on Fri, May 17. This symposium will focus on community conversations about our own stories and our future, with a multicultural multi-generational community celebration starting at 5 pm and lasting into the evening at the Brown v. Board outdoor mural.

To view the entire calendar of events visit www.bvb65.com or Events via BvBSumnerLegacyTrust on Facebook. For more information about the events and activities call 785-276-9228 or e-mail info@bvbsumnerlegacy.org.


The 65th Anniversary of Brown v Board: An Unfinished Agenda is made possible by the initiative of Brown v Board Sumner Legacy Trust, a Topeka nonprofit, whose mission is to save Sumner Elementary School and to engage the community in interpreting and advancing the story and legacy of the Brown v Board vision. It is an all-volunteer community-based effort.

Major partners are Brown v. Board National Historic Site and Freedoms Frontier National Heritage Area. Other partners include KTWU, NAACP, Visit Topeka, GO Topeka’s EMBD, Kansas African American Affairs Commission, USD 501, ArtsConnect, Metro Transit, Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, Mulvane Art Museum, Topeka Performing Arts Center, Jayhawk Theatre, AARP, Kansas Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society (KAAHGS) and Topeka First United Methodist Church.

Sherri Camp

As a veteran genealogist, I love teaching and sharing digital family history and genealogy techniques and helping people solve genealogy problems. Being the Genealogy Librarian at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library is so much fun! I work to promote a greater knowledge of family, history, and heritage.