Many people associate the South with the fight for civil rights; yet, Topeka, Kansas played a vital role in the civil rights movement and changed the trajectory of U.S. civil rights with Brown v. Board of Education.
May 17 marks the 68th anniversary of the landmark ruling that ended segregation.
Plan a trip to Topeka to visit places that had an indelible mark on the civil rights movement, including:
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site: In May 1954, the monumental Brown v. Board Supreme Court case ruled unanimously that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional – and it all started right in Topeka. The museum, a stop on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, is located inside Monroe Elementary, the segregated school involved in the court case, and currently features interpretive programs to inform and educate visitors on local and national issues relating to Brown v. BOE.
The Ritchie House and Constitution Hall: Built by abolitionists John and Mary Jane Ritchie in 1856, The Ritchie House became a station along the Underground Railroad, assisting freedom seekers on their journey north. The couple helped write The Free State of Topeka Constitution at Constitution Hall, the headquarters of the Underground Railroad. The document would ban slavery in the state and bring Kansas into the Union in 1861. Today, tours of the sites provide a reminder of the struggle to make Kansas “The Home of the Free.”
Kansas Museum of History and The Kansas State Capitol: Several other venues throughout the city feature the history of Topeka’s U.S. Civil War involvement without missing a beat. The Kansas Museum of History highlights Kansas during the Territorial Era from 1854 to 1861. Guests can also visit the Kansas State Capitol, home to several murals that show abolitionists’ resilience in the era, including the “Tragic Prelude” and Brown v. Board of Education Mural.