A celebration is brewing in Topeka for the 65th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the United States Supreme Court handed down the decision to end legal segregation in America’s public school system on May 17, 1954.
Ten days of events are planned, including a block party with music and food, a stage play, a dance concert, a documentary film, bus tours, symposiums, and an African-American film marathon.
Though previous attempts had been made to break segregation, this one started in 1950 when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People asked a group of African-American parents – which included Topeka resident Oliver Brown – to attempt to enroll their children in all-white schools, with the expectation that they would be turned away.
Brown’s third-grade daughter Linda was forced to travel a significant distance to elementary school due to racial segregation, and was barred from enrollment at Sumner Elementary, near the family home.
Brown attempted to enroll Linda at the White school as part of the NAACP plan. The strategy was for the civil rights group to file a lawsuit on behalf of 13 families in different states.
With Brown’s name happening to be alphabetically at the top of the list of plaintiffs, the case would come to be known as Brown v. Board of Education and be taken to the Supreme Court. The lead attorney working on behalf of the plaintiffs was Thurgood Marshall, who would later be named a Supreme Court justice.
Oliver Brown died in 1961. Linda Brown remained active as a public speaker and consultant until her death in early 2018. Linda Brown’s mother, Leola Brown Montgomery, is still alive at this writing at age 98.
Here’s a list of the planned Brown anniversary activities.
Fri., May 10
8:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Brown v. Board 1954: Hear our Voices – Carlton Waterhouse, Keynote Symposium featuring community members directly involved in the Brown v. Board case, with a look back and a look forward. Student Art Exhibit. Topeka Performing Arts Center (TPAC), 214 SE 8th. FREE
7 p.m. Smoke Behind Closed Doors A new play by Tyson Williams at Topeka High, Hoehner Auditorium, 800 SW 10th. Tickets $15 www.smokebehindcloseddoors.com
Sat., May 11
3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Art and Cultures: A Mural Tour bus tours from Topeka High, Free
7 p.m. Smoke Behind Closed Doors A new play by Tyson Williams at Topeka High, Hoehner Auditorium, 800 SW 10th Tickets $15 www.smokebehindcloseddoors.com
Sun., May 12
3 p.m. DANCE … in Black and White – a Movement in Desegregation New Steven Massey Dance. Student Art in Lobby. Topeka Performing Arts Center (TPAC) 214 SE 8th. Tickets $10 from TPAC or Ticketmaster.
Mon., May 13
9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Oral Histories Day Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 SW 10th. FREE
Tues., May 14
10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Art Gallery Day Exhibit from the museum’s permanent collection which engage viewers with notions of freedom of expression and civil liberty. Mulvane Art Museum, 1700 SW Jewell. FREE
11 a.m. Unanimous – Dr. Brett Beatty Gallery talk reflecting on how the Brown v Board decision affected our ideas of freedom and civil rights. Mulvane Art Museum, 1700 SW Jewell. FREE
12 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Art and Cultures: A Mural Tour bus tour from Mulvane Art Museum, Washburn Campus, 1700 SW Jewell. FREE
Wed., May 15
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Brown v. Board Day Exhibits, ranger talks, student art, self-guided citywide Brown to Brown tours. Brown v. Board National Historic Site, 1515 SE Monroe. Free
5:30 – 8:00 p.m. I Just Want to Testify Preview and discussion of a new KTWU documentary, capturing the experiences of the Topeka community as integration was implemented. Brown v. Board National Historic Site, 1515 SE Monroe. FREE
Thur., May 16
10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Brown v. Board Film Day at Jayhawk Theatre
All Day: Student Art on Display
10:00 a.m. Daughters of the Dust
1:00 p.m. The Learning Tree
3:00 p.m. Lean on Me
5:00 p.m. The Marva Collins Story
7:00 p.m. BlacKkKlansman
9:00 p.m. Academy Award-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott film talk after BlacKkKlansman, Jayhawk Theatre, 720 SW Jackson. FREE
Fri., May 17
8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Brown v. Board 2019: Real Talk, Next Steps – Ruben West, Keynote. Full community conversation with testimony, showcasing of community efforts and roundtable visioning participation for all. Topeka First United Methodist Church, 600 SW Topeka. FREE
5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Brown v. Board 65th Anniversary Celebration Music, Spoken Word, Food Trucks, Brown v. Board outdoor mural, 1424 SE Monroe. FREE
7 p.m. – 9 p.m. A Brown Celebration & Concert on the Block w/ Curtis Pitts, community rejuvenator Bring lawn chairs and snacks. Faith & Hard Works Ministry, 809 SE 12th St. FREE (independent event)
6 p.m. Banquet at Washburn University Speaker Shannon LaNier, author of “Jefferson’s Children,” w/ honorees state Sen. Anthony Hensley & Brown mural artist Michael Young. RSVP by May 8; tickets $35 each. Thompson Alumni Center, 1701 SW Jewell. Visit http://ow.ly/QqdT50rJ2No
Sat., May 18
11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. Brown v Board 65th History Tours bus tours from Brown v. Board National Historic Site, 1515 SE Monroe. FREE
Sun., May 19
1 p.m. Brown v Board 65th History Tours bus tours from Brown v. Board National Historic Site, FREE
The 65th Anniversary of Brown v. Board: An Unfinished Agenda is made possible by Brown v Board Sumner Legacy Trust with thanks to primary partners Brown v. Board National Historic Site and Freedoms Frontier National Heritage Area, all of the partners above and the Kansas African American Advisory Committee and AARP. Visit bvbsumnerlegacy.org.