Separate Is Not Equal - Brown v. Board of Education

Smithsonian National Museum of American History Behring Center

Segregated America
The Battleground
Legal Campaign
Five Communities Change a Nation
  • Clarendon County, SC
  • Topeka, Kansas
  • Farmville, Virginia
  • New Castle County, DE
  • Washington, DC
The Decision

Topeka, Kansas: Segregation in the Heartland

Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas

Slavery was never legally established in Kansas, and racial separation there was less rigid than in the Deep South. School segregation was permitted by local option, but only in elementary schools. In 1950 the state capital, Topeka, operated four elementary schools for black children.

African American parents and local activists from the NAACP challenged Topeka’s policy of segregated schooling. They filed their case in U.S. District Court in 1951. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas gave its name to the collection of cases that ended segregation in public schools.

Brown v. Board of Education Legal Case Summary
Place: Topeka, Kansas
Grievance: Segregated elementary schools, and the harmful psychological effects of segregation on African American children
Plaintiffs: Oliver Brown and 13 other parents from Topeka
Decision: A three-judge federal court ruled against the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs’ appeal reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Downtown Topeka, 1956

Downtown Topeka, 1956

(Courtesy of Kansas State Historical Society)
Lucinda Todd

Lucinda Todd

Lucinda Todd, the secretary-treasurer of the Topeka NAACP, Alvin Todd, and their daughter Nancy.
(Courtesy of Ramon and Nancy Todd Noches)
Lucinda Todd and Nancy Todd

Lucinda Todd and Nancy Todd

Lucinda Todd and her daughter Nancy. Lucinda Todd was the secretary of the Topeka branch of the NAACP and the first plaintiff to volunteer in the lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education.
(Courtesy of University of Kansas Libraries, Kenneth Spencer Research Library)

Dining room table from the home of Lucinda Todd

Dining room table from the home of Lucinda Todd

Gathered around this table in Lucinda Todd’s dining room, members of the Topeka chapter of the NAACP committed themselves to challenging segregated schooling.
(Table and tablecloth lent by Judge Paul L. Brady)
“ This is where it all started, right here at this very table. ”
—Lucinda Todd, secretary of the Topeka NAACP chapter

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