From Dolls to Desegregation: The Journey of Brown v. Board of Education

1515 SE Monroe St, Topeka, KS 66612

I was in Topeka on business and I wanted to make a stop at one of the state’s landmarks. I dropped by the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park.  The two story, Monroe Elementary School, played a big role in U.S. history.

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court made a groundbreaking decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, ruling that segregated schools were inherently unequal and violated the 14th Amendment. This landmark case played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement and marked a significant victory in the fight against racial segregation.

The case had its roots in the post-Civil War era when discriminatory laws and practices marginalized African Americans, particularly in the South. The doctrine of “separate but equal,” established in the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896, further perpetuated segregation and denied African Americans equal rights and opportunities.

In the Brown case, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) challenged the constitutionality of segregation in public schools. Thurgood Marshall and his legal team argued that separate facilities were inherently unequal and violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

To support their argument, the NAACP presented evidence from social scientists, Kenneth and Mamie Clark, who had conducted studies on the impact of segregation on black children. One notable study involved dolls, where black children overwhelmingly preferred white dolls, indicating the psychological effects of segregation and racial inferiority.  One of the original dolls is on display in in the museum.

The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, unanimously agreed with the NAACP’s arguments. In their decision, they declared that separate educational facilities were inherently unequal and violated the constitutional rights of African American students. This ruling marked a turning point in the fight against segregation and set the stage for the desegregation of public schools across the United States.

The Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park is located inside Monroe Elementary School. Among the displays is a tunnel that you can walk through. 

Actual film footage shows people yelling names at you and displaying acts of violence against black people.  It’s not an easy exhibit but it is impactful and important.

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