Celebrating 20 Years of Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park

May 17, 2024, marks 20 years since the grand opening of Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park on May 17, 2004. That date was also the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (347 U.S. 483) the 1954 landmark decision that ended legal segregation of public educational facilities in the United States.

Brown v. Board of Education NHP is housed in the former Monroe Elementary School, one of Topeka’s four historically segregated African American elementary schools. Between 1880 and 1954, First Class cities in Kansas were permitted by law to segregate elementary schools for African American children. But Monroe wasn’t the first segregated elementary school built at the corner of Monroe and 15th Streets. It replaced a four-room schoolhouse that was razed prior to completion of the current Monroe Elementary School in 1927.

Anticipating a Supreme Court decision ruling in favor of the integration of public schools in the United States, in the fall of 1953 the Topeka School Board adopted a graduated desegregation plan designed to integrate the city’s public schools by September 1955.

Monroe School closed in 1975 due to failing enrollment. The school was then used as a warehouse and parking lot for school buses and maintenance vehicles and then as a community center. A local construction company purchased the building in 1988 and used it as a warehouse.

In 1990, the structure was put up for auction. Fearing that the building might be razed, the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research sought out the Trust for Public Land who purchased the building and grounds in 1991. Also in 1991, Monroe Elementary School was designated a National Historic Landmark.

On October 26, 1992, President George W. Bush signed the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site Act (Public Law 102-525) and in 1993, title to the school and grounds were conveyed to the National Park Service.

After several years of rehabilitation and restoration work, Brown v. Board of Education NHP opened as a visitor's center with interpretive exhibits, a restored kindergarten classroom, and a resource library.

On May 17, 2004, President Bush spoke at the dedication and grand opening of the park:
“Fifty years ago today, nine judges announced that they had looked at the Constitution and saw no justification for the segregation and humiliation of an entire race. Here at the corner of 15th and Monroe, and at schools like it across America, that was a day of justice -- and it was a long time coming.”

On May 12, 2022, President Joseph R. Biden signed into law the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park Expansion and Redesignation Act. Not only did this law change Brown v. Board from a historic site to a historical park, the law also expanded the park to include sites related to the other four cases that were consolidated before the Supreme Court under Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
The sites are:
  • Robert Russa Moton Museum, Farmville, Va.
  • Scott’s Branch and Summerton High Schools, Summerton, S.C.
  • Clayton Community Center, Claymont, Del.
  • Hockessin Colored School #107c, Hockessin, Del.
  • Howard High School, Wilmington, Del.
  • John Philip Sousa Middle School, Washington, D.C.

The schools in Summerton, South Carolina will eventually be managed by the National Park Service while sites in Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia remain non-federal in ownership and operated in cooperation with the National Park Service as affiliated areas. The mission of the expanded park is to honor the civil rights stories of struggle, perseverance, and activism in the pursuit of educational equity.

Since 2004, Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park has welcomed close to 400,000 visitors and continues to serve as a community resource by hosting naturalization ceremonies and student/group tours throughout the year.

So, congratulations, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Park and many happy returns of the day. Here’s to the next 20 years!

For more information on the Brown Foundation or the Trust for Public Land, please visit: Brown Foundation | For Educational Equity, Excellence and Research ( and Trust for Public Land: Connecting Everyone to the Outdoors (

Last updated: April 11, 2024