Brown v. Board, Desegregation, African American Educators, Segregated Schools, Topeka


This article focuses on the black community in Topeka during the first half of the twentieth century. Using archival sources such as the black press, letters from educators and administrators to state officials and newspapers, and correspondence from black teachers in Topeka, I examine the reasons some African American teachers, administrators, and families were hesitant to desegregate the public school system. Additional sources include the Kansas Historical Society’s archival holdings, including governors’ files and court cases, as well as the papers of Mamie Williams, an African American teacher. Some black Topekans feared desegregation because they believed it would harm students physically and emotionally. They also believed desegregation discouraged racial pride and forced children into environments where they were “merely tolerated.” Many black teachers emphasized the unique perspective they brought to their classrooms, stating that they were better able to empathize with their students. Desegregation spelled the possibility of demotion for black teachers, yet if they voiced concerns about potential job loss and desegregation, they risked being seen as hypocrites in the fight for racial equality. With their schools, teachers, and livelihoods at stake, blacks in Topeka initially resisted the efforts of white school boards and lawyers to take their schools away from them. In 1954, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.” The legacy of desegregation continues to affect black students, communities, and the field of education over half a century later.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.