Friday, April 1, 2011

Field Trip: Brown Vs Board of Education Museum

While we were in Topeka we also visited the Brown Vs. Board of Education Museum. I did not even know this existed but was very excited to get to see it. The museum is located on the site of Monroe Elementary School which was a segregated African-American only school. Some of the Brown children attended this school during the famous case that led to desegregation. I was excited about the visit as this is a time in our history I know we must never forget or else we are apt to repeat it. Here is Gess sitting on the front steps of the building.

The moment I walked in the door I was bombarded with two signs, one that said "White" and one that said "Colored." My heart just dropped down into my stomach and I felt ill. I had read about this sort of thing, I know that it happened, but seeing it visually right in my face really made it come to life, and this is not something I ever want to see live again!

There was quite a bit to do and I was pleased to see that much of it was a hands on type of learning. The auditorium played a movie that told about the history of racism and the battles all the way up to the days of segregation. The room was set up very nice. Then there were a couple of rooms that had information, one about the history and the fight itself, and the other about the impact that Brown Vs. Board had and actually still has today. There is also another room for reflection where you can share the impact the museum had on you. You can leave a recording, memo, note, drawing or message on a board. There is also African-American art on display.

The "Education and Justice" center had the most powerful impact though. You come in and first study about the case. Here is Gess watching a clip about it, behind her you can see some of the hatred captured from that day.

And here she is doing an interactive type of activity in which she has to think about what it would be like if she were one of the children not allowed to do the same things as everyone else.

Then, in order to get to the other side of this room you have to walk through the "Hall of Courage." This had to be the most intense, powerful thing I have ever experienced. In this hall are videos of actual footage of African-American individuals who dared to walk into a "white" school. The things the people were shouting at them were horrible and the images were frightening as some of them were actually accosted and beaten. The walls are lined up with this footage and you must walk through it to get to the other side. Still, this is only a sense of what they felt. These people were young, and yet so brave! At the end of the hall is a picture of one of those brave individuals, Elizabeth Eckford, aged 15, is pictured as she was trying to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, on the first day of classes, September 4, 1957. Here is Gess walking through the Hall of Courage. You can see the photo of Elizabeth in the background.

In the hall about the legacy of Brown Vs. Board you find information about other fights of injustice. There is one that hit home with us. Here is Gess in front of the poster with a quote by Justin Dart Jr., the father of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The quote reads:

“Envision education for all! Envision health care, jobs and communities for all! We are not going to be second-class citizens any more. We will live free and equal in our communities. We envision respect, dignity and life for all! We will fight to the end of time for equal access to the American dream!”
Justin Dart, Jr., father of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act

To learn more about this great historical site you can visit the Brown Foundation Website. There you can learn more about the case, take a virtual tour of the site, and much more. This site, or others like it across the country is something that every American should see.

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