TOPEKA – As part of its ongoing initiative to interpret the civil rights story in Topeka, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site will provide free Civil War to Civil Rights bus tours during the next three Saturdays. “From Brown to Brown: Topeka’s Civil Rights Story” bus tours will travel to locations in the city linked to local and national struggles for freedom and equality. Bus tour times for Saturday, May 18 are 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:30 pm; tour times for May 25 are 10:30 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm; and on June 1 there will be one tour at 11 am. Seating is limited. To reserve a seat on the bus, call 785-354-4273. Remaining tickets will be distributed on-site the day of the tour on a first-come, first-served basis.
From conflicts during the era of John Brown and “Bleeding Kansas” prior to the Civil War to the birth of the Civil Rights Movement a century later, Topeka has played a central role. In the 1850s the central question was about freedom. Would slavery expand west into Kansas? In the 1950s the central question was about equality. Would the “separate but equal” doctrine of racial segregation in public education be overturned?
Answers to both questions proved to be defining moments on the road toward attaining racial justice and equality of opportunity for all Americans. Kansas entered the Union as a Free State in 1861 and the US Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that “in the field of public education . . . . Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
To help share the unique history of Topeka and Kansas, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, with the help of other partners in the community, is distributing a self-guided driving tour brochure. The brochure, which is titled “From Brown to Brown: Topeka’s Civil Rights Story,” features a map directing drivers to 16 city sites such as the Statehouse, Constitution Hall, Great Overland Station, Topeka Cemetery, Kansas History Museum, and the U.S. Post Office (former federal building) on Kansas Avenue where Brown v. Board of Education was first argued in 1951.
To supplement the experience, visitors can dial 785-338-4041 on their cell phones and listen to audio recordings describing each site.