President signs bill expanding Topeka’s Brown vs Board historic site
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Just days ahead of the anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Pres. Joe Biden signed a bill Thursday expanding the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site.
The bill redesignates the former Monroe School near downtown Topeka as the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park. The law adds two school sites in South Carolina to the historical park, and designates schools in Delaware, Virginia and the District of Columbia as affiliated areas of the National Park Service. NPS still must acquire the South Carolina schools.
“The expansion of Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park to recognize sites in South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia and Washington, D.C. helps us to more fully tell the story of the struggle to end school segregation,” U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said. “The Supreme Court’s finding that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional was unquestionably a pivotal event in our nation’s civil rights struggle and we are honored to serve as stewards to part of that history.”
The landmark decision “separate but equal” school facilities were inherently unequal was delivered May 17, 1954. The case was filed on behalf of 13 Topeka parents and their children who were denied entrance to the city’s all-white schools. The case bore the name of Oliver Brown, the only man among the Topeka plaintiffs, and was combined with four other cases when it reached the nation’s high court.
The former Monroe School was originally established as part of the NPS system Oct. 26, 1992. It was one of several all-black elementary schools in Topeka, and the one attended by Oliver Brown’s daughter, Linda. Renovations followed, and the site was dedicated in a ceremony May 17, 2004, the 50th anniversary of the decision.
“It is our solemn responsibility as caretakers of America’s national treasures to tell the whole, and sometimes difficult, story of our nation’s heritage for the benefit of present and future generations,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said. “Including these important sites will broaden public understanding of the events that led to the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown et. al v. Board of Education.”
The three new Brown v. Board affiliated areas bring the total number of areas affiliated with the NPS to 30.
The authorized additions to the park are:
- Summerton High School (Summerton, SC). Built in 1936 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Summerton High School was an all-white school that refused to admit black students prompting the Briggs v. Elliott case.
- Scott’s Branch High School (Summerton, SC). The former “equalization school” was constructed for African American students in 1951 under the guise of providing facilities comparable to those for white students. Today, the former school is now the Community Resource Center owned by Clarendon School District 1.
The newly authorized affiliated areas are:
- Robert Russa Moton School (Farmville, VA). The all-black school was the location of a student-led strike in 1951 that lead to Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County. The former school is a National Historic Landmark, and today serves as the Robert Russa Moton Museum, which is administered by the Moton Museum, Inc., and affiliated with Longwood University.
- Howard High School (Wilmington, DE), Claymont High School (Claymont, DE), and Hockessin Colored School #107 (Hockessin, DE) Howard High School, already a National Historic Landmark, was the first high school for African Americans in the state of Delaware and the school to which the plaintiffs in Belton v. Gebhart were forced to travel. Today, the school is known as Howard High School of Technology and is administered by the New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District. Claymont High School denied admission to the plaintiffs in the Belton v. Gebhart case. Today, the former school is a community center. Hockessin Colored School #107 was an all-Black school one of the plaintiffs in Belton v. Gebhart was required to attend without public transportation. It is now used as a community facility.
- John Philip Sousa Junior High School (Washington, D.C.). Built in 1950 in the Fort Dupont neighborhood, this was an all-white school where 12 African American students were denied admission, spurring the Bolling v. Sharpe case. Today, the school serves as a DC public middle school and was previously designated as a National Historic Landmark.
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