Before leaving Topeka, I stopped at a local Toyota dealership for an oil change. I had driven just over four thousand miles since leaving Boston. While there, I considered visiting the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. It was a fifteen minute drive and the storms were about four hours away, so I went to the Monroe Elementary School, which was one of the four segregated schools for African-American children and is now the Historic Site. I was the first visitor of the day and the park ranger explained that Kansas had segregation for elementary students but not for junior high and high school students. This case focused on segregation rather than equality as the Topeka schools, both black and white, were similarly equipped.
The Historic Site uses only the first floor for the exhibit, with a good introductory film about the fight for equal justice under the law from Plessy v. Ferguson through the Civil Rights Movement. An old classroom has been turned into a wall of courage with information on the students who were the first to desegregate schools. To convey the courage of these kids, the visitor is led thru a hall with original film footage on each side of angry, white people screaming and hurling vile language and threats. It is a powerful demonstration. In addition, there is a room with information on the lawyers and judges involved in the cases, much of it on the Supreme Court Justices and Thurgood Marshall. I’m glad I’d visited and left wishing I had had more time to spend, but it was time to run from another day of storms.