Civil Rights at Brown v Board of Education National Historic Site

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic SiteLittle Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Monroe Elementary School at night
Monroe Elementary School at night


Quick Facts

Topeka, Kansas
National Historic Site

On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka unanimously ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. The ruling overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that had approved the “separate but equal doctrine.” The case from Topeka was one of five cases the court challenging racial segregation in public education. The other cases were from Delaware, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and Virginia. The court combined the cases into one class action suit, Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark remembers listing the Kansas case first, to show that the issue was not “purely a Southern one.” Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and later the first African American Supreme Court justice, played a critical role in the presentation and argument of the cases. Kenneth B. Clark and his wife Mamie Phipps Clark, African American psychologists, prepared research that helped the Supreme Court rule that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

The park is located in the formed Monroe Elementary School where Linda Brown went to school. Her father, Oliver Brown, was the first of 13 plaintiffs listed in the Kansas case. The school has been restored to its 1954 appearance and now contains interactive exhibits, films, and a bookstore. Park rangers greet visitors and give them an introduction to the story of Brown v. Board of Education.