Brown Case - Brown v. Board

Brown et. al. v. The Board of Education of Topeka, et. al.


In Kansas there were eleven school integration cases dating from 1881 to 1949, prior to Brown in 1954.  In many instances the schools for African American children were substandard facilities with out-of-date textbooks and often no basic school supplies.  What was not in question was the dedication and qualifications of the African American teachers and principals assigned to these schools.

In response to numerous unsuccessful attempts to ensure equal opportunities for all children, African American community leaders and organizations stepped up efforts to change the education system.  In the fall of 1950 members of the Topeka, Kansas, Chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) agreed to again challenge the "separate but equal" doctrine governing public education. 

The strategy was conceived by the chapter president, McKinley Burnett, the secretary Lucinda Todd and attorneys Charles Scott, John Scott, and Charles Bledsoe.  For a period of two years Mr. Burnett had attempted to have Topeka Public School Officials simply chose to integrate schools because the Kansas law did not require segregated public schools only at the elementary level in first class cities.  Filing suit against the District was a final attempt to secure integrated public schools.

Their plan involved enlisting the support of fellow NAACP members and personal friends as plaintiffs in what would be a class action suit filed against the Board of Education of Topeka Public Schools.  A group of thirteen parents agreed to participate on behalf of their children (twenty children).

Each plaintiff was to watch the paper for enrollment dates and take their child to the school for white children that was nearest to their home.  Once they attempted enrollment and were denied, they were to report back to the NAACP.  This would provide the attorneys with the documentation needed to file a lawsuit against the Topeka School Board.  The African American schools appeared equal in facilities and teacher salaries but some programs were not offered and some textbooks were not available.  In addition, there were only four elementary schools for African American children as compared to eighteen for white children.  This made attending neighborhood schools impossible for African American children.  Junior and Senior high schools were integrated.

Oliver Brown was assigned as lead plaintiff, principally because he was the only man among the plaintiffs.  On February 28, 1951 the NAACP filed their case as Oliver L. Brown et. al. vs. The Board of Education of Topeka (KS).  The District Court ruled in favor of the school board and the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  When the Topeka case made its way to the United States Supreme Court, it was combined with the other NAACP cases from Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C.  The combined cases became known as Oliver L. Brown et. al. vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, et. al.

On May 17, 1954 at 12:52 p.m. the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision that it was unconstitutional, violating the 14th amendment, to separate children in public schools for no other reason than their race.  Brown vs. The Board of Education helped change America forever.

In 1979 a group of young attorneys were concerned about a policy in Topeka Public Schools that allowed open enrollment.  Their fear was that this would lead to resegregation.  They believed that with this type of choice white parents would shift their children to other schools creating predominately African American or predominately white schools.  As a result these attorneys petitioned the federal court to reopen the original Brown case to determine if Topeka Public Schools had in fact ever complied with the court=s ruling of 1954.

This case is commonly known as Brown III.  These young attorneys were Richard Jones, Joseph Johnson and Charles Scott, Jr. (son of one of the attorneys in the original case) in association with Chris Hansen from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) in New York.  In the late 1980s Topeka Public Schools were found to be out of compliance.  On October 28, 1992, after several appeals the U.S. Supreme Court denied Topeka Public School's petition to once again hear the Brown case.  As a result the school was directed to develop plans for compliance and have since built three magnet schools.  These schools are excellent facilities and make every effort to be racially balanced.  Ironically one of these new schools is named after the Scott family attorneys for their role in the Brown case and civil rights.  It is the Scott Computer and Mathematics Magnet School.