Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas: Helping Kids Understand Diversity and Equality
Disclaimer: The U.S. Department of Education does not mandate or prescribe particular curricula or lesson plans. This information is provided for the visitor's convenience and is included here as an example of the many resources that parents and educators may find helpful and use at their option. See the full FREE disclaimer.
In the 1950s, parents brought a class action suit against the Topeka, Kansas, school board claiming denial of access to Topeka’s white schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. When the federal district courts dismissed the case, Oliver Brown, parent of one of the children, appealed to the Supreme Court. On May 17, 1954, the Court issued its decision, based on review of a total of five cases, which led to desegregation of the country’s public school system.
Explore original records: Older kids may be interested in exploring the original federal government records pertaining to the Brown v. Board of Education, held by the National Archives and Records Administration. Information in these materials, such as the Introduction to these records, can enrich youths’ historical comprehension of this landmark case.
Explore the Library of Congress’s resources from their Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, online exhibit. Dig even deeper into the history with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Brown at 60 site and learn more about “The Doll Test.”
Follow special events: Each year, the National Park Service (NPS) has several Brown v. Board of Education events at its National Historic Site in Kansas. These events can include a play, bus tour, and story time. In 2014, to recognize the 60th anniversary of this landmark event, for example, kids could follow an NPS re-enactment on Twitter of the U.S. Supreme Court Decision and the world's reaction.
Learn about government and the justice system: See what your kids know about the fact that there are three branches of government, one being the judicial branch, which includes the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the nation, dealing with cases related to federal law. The U.S. Supreme Court consists of nine justices (judges). Ask your kids if they were a Supreme Court justice, what kinds of cases do they think the Court should review.
Become more aware of diversity: Make your kids more conscious of the diversity that exists in the U.S. Ask your kids if they know what the difference is between the same and different. In many ways, we are all the same, living in the U.S., going to school and doing homework. But in other ways, we are different. Ask them how differences in school kids brought about Brown v. Board of Education. Visit the Census Bureau’s kids page to learn more about diversity in the U.S.
Celebrate diversity through art and music: Check out the Smithsonian’s Cultural Programs page, which links to a wealth of resources that celebrate diversity in the U.S. and around the world, and get inspiration from a variety of perspectives and experiences expressed in the arts and folk art. Watch this video of second-graders dancing along to singer-songwriter Kristin Andreassen’s “Crayola Doesn’t Make a Color for Your Eyes.” Can you make up your own song and music video, or create a work of art with crayons or paint, to celebrate diversity in your school or community?
Read with your kids books focused on diversity in the school environment.
These are just a few of the resources available related to this landmark case. Check out these and others for more insight into the history and impact of Brown v. Board, and think about ways to celebrate diversity in your school and community.
This feature is based on a blog post that originally appeared on free.ed.gov, a site that is now retired. Please visit ed.gov/FREE for more information.
Last Modified: 12/01/2015