"From Brown to Brown: Topeka's Civil Rights Story" Bus Tours Now Available
This new bus tour maps out locations in the city linked to local and national struggles for freedom and equality. Bus tours will be available Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 10:30 am, 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm. Click on More for complete details of the tour. More »
2013 Teacher Ranger Teacher Opportunity
During the summer of 2013, the national NPS office of history and civics is seeking a Teacher Ranger Teacher to develop lesson plans that incorporate information about the National Park Service that meet common core standards, located in Topeka, Kansas. More »
Brown Site Welcomes 40 New Citizens
Date: March 28, 2013
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site staff welcomed 40 new American citizens to their National Parks on March 23 in what is becoming an increasingly frequent event at the Topeka park. Nearly 200 friends and family members were also in attendance. The park will play host to at least three Naturalization Ceremonies in the coming year.
Stressing the role and obligation American citizens have in protecting their country's parks and public lands, Chief of Interpretation Dave Schafer reminded America's newest citizens of what National Parks represent. Using examples from Manzanar, the USS Arizona, and Andersonville, Schafer demonstrated that National Parks help tell America's collective story and preserve it for the next generation.
Federal Judge Julie Robinson presided over the proceedings. She also reminded the new citizens of the significance in the Brown v. Board of Education case in assuring that all Americans should have access to education regardless of the color of their skin.
Park staff provided the new citizens with welcome packets to help them enjoy and explore their parks and public lands. The park partnered with the Daughters of the American Revolution and the League of Women Voters to provide additional materials and refreshments at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Kansas Parks Celebrate St. Patrick's Day
Date: March 26, 2013
Near freezing temperatures did little to stop staff from the Kansas National Parks from participating in this year's St. Patrick's Day parade and celebration in Topeka. Staff from both Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site paraded through Topeka's urban core to invite revelers to come out and experience their public lands at all of Kansas' five parks.
Accompanied by National Park Trust Buddy Bison and park mascot Monroe the Dog, park staff distributed thousands of park brochures, NPS trading cards, and other educational materials to the thousands of Kansans who lined the two-mile route.
This was the first year that any of the Kansas parks had participated in the annual parade. In looking for ways to build relevance and reach out to new communities, park staff has been seeking out fresh outreach tools. During the parade, staff contacted hundreds of people who were unaware of the fact that Kansas actually had national Park Service sites.
The parade marked the first use of one of Tallgrass Prairie NP's visitor buses as a parade float. During the parade, local youths and volunteers waved to those seated along the parade route. The bus is currently on loan to Brown v. Board of Education NHS for their use as part of the "From Brown to Brown" bus tour which will begin in April and will take park visitors to other civil rights sites associated with the park's story.
Visitors Dance the Night Away at First Community Sock Hop
Date: February 27, 2013
On Saturday February 23, Brown v. Board of Education NHS hosted its first community sock hop. Approximately 100 visitors braved the elements to enjoy a night of fun and music while students from the Kansas Ballet Academy and Accent Dance Academy demonstrated dances such as the stroll, the twist, the lindy and the locomotion. A local band by the name of Spare Parts entertained the crowd with music from the 1950s and 1960s as kids and adults competed at hula hoop. The night was a great success according to park historian Thom Rosenblum. "We wanted to offer the public a lighter side of the history while still maintaining the parks thematic integrity."
Music has the ability to unify society but it can also serve as a catalyst for youthful rebellion against traditional social norms. In its infancy, rock and roll reflected a unique harmony of various African American music genres that caught the attention of young adults to put on their dance shoes and twist the night away to the new sound.
The music industry labeled all African American music as race records. Therefore, early rock and roll was considered race music. However, the new sound transcended racial barriers as young adults from every ethnic group flocked to dance halls wanting to hear rock and roll. The success of rock and roll as an instrument for integrating young adults, and its label as race music, created a negative backlash from segregationists grasping to the idea of cultural traditions that separated whites and blacks in every aspect of society. Various groups organized boycotts of music stores and radio stations that played rock and roll. Despite their efforts, rock and roll survived.
Veterans Inspire Quilt Pieces
Date: November 7, 2012
American war veterans from World War II as well as Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan engaged high school students at Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site as part of an effort to honor soldiers on Veterans Day. Whether it was hearing stories of combat in Afghanistan, facing battles in Normandy, or the monotony of marching and singing in cadence, the students left the park with a rich appreciation for American military service.
Park staff partnered with the Dream Rocket Project so that they could better link students from the heartland with the conflicts and issues soldiers contend with beyond the American shores. Many of the soldiers connected their stories of fighting for freedom and democracy with the park's story of fighting for equality and world free of discrimination.
High school art students were at the site to create quilt pieces that honored military service and could be displayed for Veterans Day. The quilts will eventually end up as part of a major art exhibit linking the exploration of space with community art programs. The Dream Rocket Project enlists the help of students worldwide to create a collage of quilt pieces that tell the stories of peace, freedom, equality and education and that will be sewn together in order to fully wrap a Saturn V Moon Rocket by June of 2014.
Brown v. Board of Education NHS has partnered with program coordinator Jennifer Marsh to create hundreds of these quilt pieces. Marsh will need a total of 8,000 individual quilts in order to fully enshroud the Saturn rocket. Parks interested in working with Marsh to create Dream Rocket quilts can contact her by clicking here for more information.
Topeka Capital-Journal/Thad Allton
"Education Drives America" Bus Tour Stops at Brown v. Board of Education NHS
Date: September 20, 2012
Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke for approximately 15 minutes about the necessity of closing the opportunity gap in education and the importance of continued investment in educational opportunities for all Americans. Referring to the formerly segregated Monroe School as "hallowed ground," Secretary Duncan commented that "Brown v. Board of Education is not just a part of our history; it has to be part of our future as well."
The program kicked off with the Topeka High School drumline and the Williams Science and Fine Arts Magnet School choir offered up "Home on the Range," the state song of Kansas. The Secretary was preceded by speakers that included Topeka mayor William Bunten, Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, and Highland Park High School Principal Dr. Beryl New.
The Secretary was then introduced by high school students Jewlissa Frickey and McKenna Miller, whose National History Day film on WWII Japanese-American internment camps is currently on display at the park.
Prior to the public program, law students from Washburn University participated in a one hour town hall meeting at the park with Assistant Secretaries of Education Michael Yudin and Russlyn Ali. Approximately 50 high school students also toured the exhibits and participated in ranger led education programs before joining the law students and Department of Education officials for a second hour of dialogue and discussion.
"What better place than Brown v. Board of Education NHS to tell the story of segregation in education," said park superintendent David Smith. "Secretary Duncan made it very clear that we are facing a crisis in education today. We are thrilled that the park could be part of a renewed focus on the role of education in American society."
Given the extensive media coverage of the Secretary's visit, the public event also drew the attention of the Topeka based Westboro Baptist Church. The controversial church group regularly pickets the funerals of American soldiers to publicize their views against homosexuality. Several members of the church demonstrated and exercised their constitutional rights under the First Amendment with signs, placards, and songs just off park property. They demonstrated without incident and left shortly before the Secretary's arrival.
Naturalization Ceremony Shared Via Webcam
Date: September 11, 2012
Fifty-six new citizens were sworn in at Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site on September 7th. After welcoming the new citizens and their guests, U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson surprised one already excited participant. The judge announced that the ceremony would be streamed live via webcast, so that a special guest could watch from afar. Adelina Roberts was delighted to hear that her husband, U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas Roberts was watching the ceremony from his post in Afghanistan and waiting to see his wife become a U.S. citizen.
The program included a welcome from park superintendent David Smith, musical selections by the Williams Science and Fine Arts Magnet School choir, and a moving address by Topeka attorney Pedro L. Irigonegaray, who emigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1961 as a young boy. Irigonegaray urged the newly sworn citizens to uphold their civic duties and responsibilities and remember the Americans that had bravely stepped forward to battle segregation in America's public schools.
Photo courtesy of Dick Ross.
Run for Justice Held on Labor Day
Date: September 11, 2012
Partnering with Washburn University Running Club, the park co-sponsored a 5K "Run for Justice" to honor and remember the sacrifices of firefighters and law enforcement officers on 9/11.
The day began on the steps of the visitor center with students from Scott Computer Technology Magnet Elementary School presenting artwork and awards to Topeka fire chief Greg Bailey, Topeka police chief Ron Miller, and Shawnee County sheriff Herman Jones. After the presentation, 95 runners took positions on the starting line on the Landon Trail, a city trail adjacent to the park, for the 5K walk and run. Several park staff participated in the run, but were bested by talented local runners.
The race was the culminating event for a weekend of activities at the park that drew a range of new visitors and communities to the park, with the goal of getting people outdoors and exercising. Ranger David Carter organized the event.
"As a former law enforcement officer, I know that good 'thank you's' from citizens are few and far between," said Carter. "We really wanted to show our appreciation to our military, police, and fire on Labor Day and in remembrance of the tragedy on September 11."
At just under two acres, Brown v. Board of Education NHS relies on an extensive regional trail system to supplement the park's outdoor recreational venues. Park staff have been capitalizing on this by connecting younger visitors to local natural areas via the trails. The success of the Labor Day race opens the door to similar outdoor activities and races in the future.
Labor Day Festival Draws 1300 Visitors to Park
Date: September 4, 2012
Partnering with the Mid-America Black Expo for "Grant Fest," Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site enjoyed the busiest day in recent memory. Over 1300 visitors enjoyed a range of activities at the park on Saturday.
"Being able to connect with new audiences is such an important part of our function as a National Park. The key to success this weekend's event was finding partners who had proven successful at connecting with new audiences," said park superintendent David Smith. "This is going to become an annual event that we know will serve our community partners and bring people out to the park."
The park provided an expanded Junior Ranger program for the day. Kids earned the park's new Civil War to Civil Rights trading cards by participating in a variety of activities including printmaking, team-building games, and museum activities.
Kids and grown-ups alike enjoyed programs provided by the Topeka Zoo and a visit from the area bookmobile. Former NPS ranger and award winning storyteller Bobby Norfolk entertained all with his dynamic stories. From the Underground Railroad to the Harlem Renaissance to the Negro Leagues, Bobby took visitors through a sweep of African American history. And with rides, food, and live music in the adjacent Cushinberry Park, there was something for everyone in the local community.
The final event of the evening was the premiere of a new film by French filmmaker Fabrice Chiambretto called Barbara Johns: The Making of an Icon. The film focuses on a sixteen year-old high school student that organized and led a walkout in protest of deplorable schools for African American children in Farmville, Virginia. The case became one of the five lawsuits heard by the U.S. Supreme Court that led to the desegregation of public schools in the United States. Any park interested in using the film as an interpretive tool should contact the park.
Marla Jackson Selected as Park's First Artist in Residence
Release Date: 06/18/2012
Topeka, KS - Artists have long impacted the formation, expansion, and direction of our national parks. The work of many artists has also assisted in providing perspectives at parks that create meaningful experiences for our visitors. And creating art can be a powerful way to learn the stories of the past, especially for children. Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site is pleased to announce that quilt artist Marla A. Jackson will be the park's first Artist in Residence.
For the next four months, Ms. Jackson will collaborate with park staff to engage youth and audiences in art programs that will connect visitors to stories of the struggle for equality. Ms. Jackson will assist with art projects for five weeks of summer camps that will bring students from Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City area Boys and Girls Clubs to learn about the struggle for civil rights in Kansas by visiting historic sites and engaging in art projects.
One of eight children born to Fern Eaton Crum and Rufus Crum, Jr., originally from Royal Oak Township in Michigan, Ms. Jackson spent many weekends and summers with her paternal grandparents, Rufus and Zelma Crum, and her once enslaved great-grandmother, Lucille Crum. Ms. Jackson's artistic direction was influenced by her family's stories, and her quilts depict scenes and themes that capture the pride, spirit, pain, and joy of the African American experience. Her primary goal with her work is to echo the untold stories of heroes that history has overlooked, forgotten, or hidden.
Painting the landscapes of the American West, visual artists like George Catlin and Albert Bierstadt focused attention on natural wonders in the western landscape, then unfamiliar to the eastern populace. These visual records of early artists helped to stimulate the establishment of many of our first national parks. Today, artists from a wide variety of mediums draw upon the multifaceted quality of parks for inspiration. Artists like Ms. Jackson translate the national park's purpose, as a place that preserves our nation's struggle for equality, into images and projects that bring a deeper understanding of the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education to youth.
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site tells the story of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended legal segregation in public schools. The site is located at 1515 SE Monroe Street in Topeka, Kansas, and is open free of charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with the exceptions of Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. For more information call 785-354-4273 or visit www.nps.gov/brvb and www.facebook.com/brownvboardnps
Kansas First Lady Visits After-school Program
Date: April 18, 2012
Every Friday children from Williams Science and Fine Arts Magnet School walk a few blocks to Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to participate in after-school enrichment activities. Park staff and volunteers provide and facilitate reading programs, art projects, outdoor activities, and curriculum based programs.
On April 20, third graders arrived and were met by Kansas First Lady Mary Brownback. Mrs. Brownback visited with the children and read Of Thee I Sing, a children's book written by President Barack Obama.
The students are participants in an afterschool program called Families Empowered by Additional Teaching of Students (FEATS). FEATS targets children at low-performing schools living in poverty. Over 85% of the children attending Williams receive free and low cost lunches and nearly half those students are reading below state standards.
Jointly administered by the Williams School and the YWCA, FEATS focuses on providing healthy snacks, exercise, literacy, and educational enrichment programs. The program has been very well received by students, school social workers, and park staff.
"Having the first lady read to these children about the role of civil rights in their lives will be something that they will never forget," said park Superintendent David Smith. "She generously shared her time to help enrich their minds and share stories about people - just like these kids - who had the courage to stand up for what was right and help change the world. What better place to have this discussion than at the park where a few committed parents helped rock the very foundation of our country's educational system."
Did You Know?
The U.S. Supreme Court charged states to move with “all deliberate speed” to end segregation in public schools in 1955 in what is known as Brown II.--Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site