The year I was born 13 parents filed a class action suit against the Topeka Board of Education in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas and a young black man entered Boston University for graduate studies.
My parents were building a house in the country while the US Supreme Court reversed the District Courts decision in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education* and held that, “even if segregated black and white schools were of equal quality in facilities and teachers, segregation by itself was harmful to black students and unconstitutional.” The young black man, Martin Luther King, Jr. married Coretta Scott and moved to Montgomery, AL.
With the birth of a fourth child our house was too small. My parents sold the house and we moved back into the city while the Supreme Court delegated the desegregation of schools to the district courts and ordered them to do it “with all possible speed.” In the same year Martin Luther King, Jr. received his Doctorate of Philosophy in Systematic Theology and joined the bus boycott in Montgomery, AL after Rosa Parks was arrested.
The year I started kindergarten there were no longer segregated elementary schools in Topeka, KS and the Supreme Court ruled bus segregation illegal.
The governor of Arkansas called out the Alabama National Guard to block the entry of two black students into Little Rock High School and Dr. King gave a speech to 15,000 people in Washington, D.C., the year I was a flower girl in my Aunt Mary’s wedding
We took our first family vacation to the Lake of the Ozarks the year Ruby Bridges became the first black student to attend a white elementary school in New Orleans. Dr. King was arrested at a restaurant “sit-in” while waiting to be served in Atlanta, GA and I asked my mother to explain to me why a person would not be served at a restaurant because they were a different color.
The evening news showed Alabama Gov. George Wallace blocking a door at the University of Alabama in order to prevent the enrollment of two black students. Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial and I started junior high
Dr. King was arrested during a voting rights demonstration in Selma, AL, my parents let me have my first boy-girl party and President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
The year Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, TN and Bobby Kennedy in Los Angeles I spent the summer with my Aunt Mary and her family near Boston. There were hippies on Boston Commons and I could feel the fresh air blowing on the winds of a societal shift.
In 1986, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day became a National Holiday to be celebrated on the third Monday of January. Monroe Elementary was designated a U.S. National Historic Site unit of the National Park Service in 1992.
I am sure no one in my family thought there was anything historically significant about the year 1951 in Topeka, Kansas, USA. As for me, I am glad society ground forward, cultural shifts were made and racial segregation mores were broken open. I have lived this piece of history and it is good……..
*http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=347&invol=483 – 47k –
©2011 Susan Kendall. All rights reserved