It has been 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.
Between May 10 and 19 the 65th Anniversary of Brown v Board: An Unfinished Agenda offered Kansans a chance to come together in more than 20 events. The events began on May 10 with keynote speaker Carlton Waterhouse of Howard University and testimony from older Topekans. Other events included: “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.
Oral History Day was held 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.
Attendees were able to preview and have a 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.
There was a showing of Academy Award-winning “BlacKkKlansman” and a conversation with its Oscar-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott.
A wrap-up symposium focused on community conversations about Topekans’ stories and the future. The Kansas African American Affairs Commisssion worked with the Kansas State Historical Society to release the Katherine Carper Sawyer commemorative trading card. At the age of 10 Mrs. Sawyer testified in the Brown v. Board case.
The week-long commemoration ended with two block parties, a banquet, and bus tours of sites related to the Brown case. The buses were wrapped in images from the Brown outdoor mural. The city hopes to keep the images on the buses for the next two years.