Bill passed to expand Brown v. Board of Education historic sites

FILE - A bill introduced in Congress last week would expand the Brown v. Board of  Education...
FILE - A bill introduced in Congress last week would expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to other areas of the nation that were involved in the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled segregation unconstitutional. The Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, shown here, is at 1515 S.E. Monroe in Topeka.(Phil Anderson)
Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 3:55 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Sites in Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C., will now be recognized as Brown v. Board of Education historic sites with the passage of new legislation.

U.S. Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) says the Senate unanimously passed legislation to commemorate the historic sites that contributed to the 1954 Supreme Court decision - Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

Marshall said the legislation is meant to expand the Brown v. Board National Historic Site to include sites in South Carolina and to designate a National Park Service Affiliated Areas in other states. He said it would recognize the importance of the additional sites that catalyzed litigation in Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Kansas.

“Decades ago, parents in the Topeka area stood up for their children and fought against segregation, ultimately leading to a vital Supreme Court decision that changed our nation for the better,” Marshall said. “Kansas has a rich history of engagement in the fight for civil rights and these historical sites hold a special place in our hearts. I am proud to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to advance this important legislation so future generations can continue to learn about these pivotal times in American history.”

Marshall noted that the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board was described by constitutional scholar Louis H. Pollak as “probably the most important American government act of any kind since the Emancipation Proclamation.” He said the decision transformed the United States and struck down the separate-but-equial doctrine established in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.

Marshall said the Plessy decision condoned and entrenched legalized segregation across the south, despite protections clearly stated in the U.S. Constitution and underscored by the 14th and 15th Amendments.

Marshall said the Jim Crow laws stayed in place for nearly a century following Reconstruction, but pioneering civil rights lawyers such as Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, William Hastie, Constance Baker Botley, Louis Lorenzo Redding and more challenged the constitutionality of segregation and won. He sid the Brown decision ended the practice of legalized segregation in educational facilities and was a major catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.

“Kansan Linda Brown and her parents took their case all the way to the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, leading to the unanimous overturn of the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine that discriminated against school children because of their skin color,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said. “I look forward to the President signing this legislation into law to expand and preserve the historic sites in Kansas and around the country connected to this case. Kansas has played a key role in the civil rights movement, and we must seek to preserve this legacy which calls on all Americans to uphold the self-evident truth that all men and women are created equal.”

Marshall said the history of Brown v. Board is represented in the national consciousness by a single building - Monroe School - which is a National Historic Site in Topeka. He said the limited geographic scope condenses public memory of the events and inadvertently fails to recognize the contributions of the communities in Claymont, Del., Hockessin, Del., Wilmington, Del., Summerton, S.C., Farmville, Va., and Washington, D.C. that were also important to the fight for equality and that saw their cases consolidated with the Brown case. He said the dispersion of the locations shows the legislation is truly a story of a national struggle with national significance.

Marshall noted that the creation of the NPS Affiliated Areas in Delaware, Virginia and Washington, D.C., for sites associated with the Brown V. Board case and an expansion of the National Historic Site to include South Carolina as it provides an opportunity for the sites to tell their own uplifting, under-recognized stores of students, parents, and their allies who helped to shape American society.

Marshall said the enactment of the legislation has the chance to appropriately recognize the sites associated with the other four court cases and help them to combine current uses with preservation and public education. In collaboration with local partners and other stakeholders, he said the National Trust will continue its collective work with other communities engaged in the fight for educational equity, past and present.

To read the full text of the legislation, click HERE.

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