Kansas’ Rich Civil Rights History

Written by Lacey Bisnett

Kansas has a rich history in the fight for civil rights. One of the most well known cases of this was Brown V Board of Education. This case was initiated by members of the local NAACP chapter in Topeka, Kansas. Thirteen parents volunteered to participate.

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site 02
Photo curtesy of JoLynne Martinez.

In the summer of 1950, they took their children to schools in their neighborhoods and attempted to enroll them for the upcoming school year. All were refused admission. The children were forced to attend one of the four schools in the city for African Americans. For most, this involved traveling some distance from their homes. These parents filed suit against the Topeka Board of Education on behalf of their twenty children. Oliver Brown, a minister, was the first parent listed in the suit, so the case came to be named after him. Three local lawyers, Charles Bledsoe, Charles Scott and John Scott, were assisted by Robert Carter and Jack Greenberg of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

The case was filed in February 1951. The U.S. District Court ruled against the plaintiffs, but placed in the record its acceptance of the psychological evidence that African American children were adversely affected by segregation. These findings later were quoted by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1954 opinion.


The Equality House

The Story of overcoming Hate, Prejudice and Fear

By Ashley Watson

Driving along 12th Street in Southwest Topeka, a brightly painted one-story house stands out from the mid-century homes. Most people know this house as the “Rainbow House” due to its colorful paint job reflecting the Pride flag.

Aaron Jackson, founder of Planting Peace, purchased the Equality House in 2013. Planting Peace is a global nonprofit organization. Planting Peace proclaims “Peace” as its mission stating the organization was, “founded for the purpose of spreading peace in a hurting world. Our projects focus on a range of humanitarian and environmental initiatives, including our multi-national deworming campaign; a network of orphanages and safe havens in developing countries; LGBTQ rights advocacy; Equality House and Transgender House; and rainforest conservation efforts in the Amazon.”

What is the Equality House?

The Equality House is a symbol of compassion, peace, and positive change in both the Topeka community and the world at large. Planting Peace hopes the house “serves as the resource center for all Planting Peace human rights initiatives and stands as a visual reminder of our commitment, as global citizens, to equality for all.”

It also makes quite the statement at 1200 SW Orleans St., nestled directly across from the Westboro Baptist Church hate group campus.

Visitors are welcome to the House. They are able to walk the property, take photos and help out/help themselves to veggies from the community garden. Also, if able, visitors are encouraged to donate.

What are some things the Equality House has done?

The Equality House made quite a splash when it moved to Topeka to directly combat the hatred from the neighboring Westboro Baptist Church. Travelers have come from all over to see the house and feel supported by its message.

The Equality House has hosted many events including: LGBTQ weddings, drag shows, and NoH8 photoshoots. In addition to events, the Equality House has helped to raise awareness and funds to be used for anti-bullying, to help those with HIV/AIDs, and more.

Sharing Joy

By: Lacey Bisnett

December brings one of my favorite seasonal activities, no it’s not gifts, snow, or family gatherings… I get my coat and gloves on and… wait for the drama to unfold about the latest holiday cup from Starbucks. Yup, that’s right, I’m always entertained each year by the outrage over a festive cup. Why the outrage? Simply put, I think people are often afraid that by accommodating other celebrations are we lessening our personal favorite one. Someone says “Happy Holidays” and there is outrage that there is a war on Christmas. Someone says “Merry Christmas” and another is quick to report they don’t celebrate. This month, let’s all learn to share in JOY of whatever each of us celebrates. If I know you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, or Christmas, I’ll be sure to wish you well when those holidays come up this season. In turn, I’ll happily accept all greeting from all holidays you acknowledge and celebrate. My family celebrates THREE different holidays in December: Chalica, Winter Solstice, and Christmas. Let’s take some time this month to learn about all the different celebrations that people in the Topeka area engage in! In fact, you can get a sampling of many by attending Peace: A Multicultural Holiday Evening in town on December 15th. Details HERE.