Washington, D.C.– U.S. Senators Roger Marshall, M.D. and Jerry Moran released the following statements after the Senate unanimously passed legislation to commemorate the historic sites that contributed to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The purpose of this legislation is to expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to include historic sites in South Carolina and designate National Park Service (NPS) Affiliated Areas in other states. It would recognize the importance of the additional sites that catalyzed litigation in Delaware, South Carolina, Kansas, Virginia, and the District of Columbia by designating them NPS Affiliated Areas, and expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas.
“Decades ago, parents in the Topeka area stood up for their children and fought against segregation, ultimately leading to a vital Supreme Court decision that changed our nation for the better,” said Senator Marshall. “Kansas has a rich history of engagement in the fight for civil rights and these historical sites hold a special place in our hearts. I am proud to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to advance this important legislation so future generations can continue to learn about these pivotal times in American history.”
“Kansan Linda Brown and her parents took their case all the way to the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, leading to the unanimous overturn of the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine that discriminated against school children because of their skin color,” said Senator Moran. “I look forward to the President signing this legislation into law to expand and preserve the historic sites in Kansas and around the country connected to this case. Kansas has played a key role in the civil rights movement, and we must seek to preserve this legacy which calls on all Americans to uphold the self-evident truth that all men and women are created equal.”
The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was described by constitutional scholar Louis H. Pollak as “probably the most important American government act of any kind since the Emancipation Proclamation.” The Brown decision transformed the United States, striking down the separate-but-equal doctrine established by Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. The Plessy decision was the linchpin that condoned and entrenched legalized segregation across the South, despite protections clearly stated in the U.S. Constitution and underscored by the 14th and 15th Amendments.
These laws stayed in placed for nearly 100 years after Reconstruction, but pioneering civil rights lawyers like Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, William Hastie, Constance Baker Motley, Louis Lorenzo Redding, and others challenged the constitutionality of segregation and won. The Brown decision ended the practice of legalized segregation in educational facilities and was a major catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.
The history of Brown v. Board of Education is represented in our national consciousness by a single building, Monroe School, which is a National Historic Site located in Topeka, Kansas. This limited geographic scope condenses public memory of these events and inadvertently fails to recognize the contributions of the other communities in Claymont, Delaware; Hockessin, Delaware; Wilmington, Delaware; Summerton, South Carolina; Farmville, Virginia; and the District of Columbia that were also important to the fight for equality and that saw their cases consolidated with the Brown case. The geographic dispersion of these locations demonstrates that Brown v. Board of Education is truly a story of a national struggle with national significance.
The creation of NPS Affiliated Areas in Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia for sites associated with the Brown v. Board of Education case and an expansion of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to include the related sites in South Carolina provides an opportunity for these sites to tell their own uplifting, under-recognized stories of students, parents, and their allies who helped shape American society.
Enactment of this legislation has the potential to appropriately recognize the sites associated with the other four court cases and help them to combine current uses with preservation and public education. In collaboration with local partners and other stakeholders, the National Trust will continue their collective work to bring recognition to communities that fought for school integration, helping these sites to tell their own history of the Brown v. Board of Education case and make connections to other communities engaged in the fight for educational equity, past and present.
The bill text is available here.
About the National Trust for Historic Preservation
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to save America’s historic places. Visit http://www.savingplaces.org
About the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a multi-year initiative led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, the JPB Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and other partners, working to make an important and lasting contribution to our cultural landscape by elevating the stories and places of African American achievement and activism. Visit https://savingplaces.org/african-american-cultural-heritage#.Yk7zH5DMInc