Topeka to commemorate Brown v. Board of Education decision starting Friday

This Friday is the beginning of Topeka’s 10-day commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision, which summarily ended segregation in classrooms across the country.  The theme for this year’s event is “An Unfinished Agenda”, which a number of people feel represent the current state of affairs in America.

“We named it “An Unfinished Agenda” very intentionally and it has seemed to speak to everyone”, said Karen Hiller, Chair of the Brown v. Board Sumner Legacy Trust and Councilwoman for the city of Topeka from the 1st District. “People had a vision back when (they) decided to file those cases and to try and integrate those schools and it’s not finished yet. So, in the ten days of recognition of this anniversary, the whole combination of history to community conversation and a look at whether we might want to come together in the future is exciting.”

From theatrical productions to community conversations to a presentation from an Academy Award-winning writer, participants will have a variety of activities from which to choose.

“There are over twenty activities going on”, said Glenda Washington, a member of the Brown v. Board Planning Committee and Senior Vice President of Entrepreneurial & Minority Business Development for the Greater Topeka Partnership. “The first event is this Friday featuring Dr. Carlton Waterhouse from Howard University. He’ll be coming in to help us understand what the Civil Rights Era was like and giving us an overview of the case and talking about future opportunities for the community, as well.”

On Thursday evening, May 16, the Jayhawk Theatre will host a free “Brown v. Board Film Day” where five significant African-American movies will be showcased starting at 10 a.m.  At the conclusion of the 7 p.m. showing of “BlacKkKlansman”, Academy Award-winning writer and University of Kansas Professor Kevin Willmott will be speaking.

“If people have followed Kevin, he’s from Junction City and he’s, currently, a professor at KU, and he’s just awesome”, said Hiller. “That will be the capstone. He will be here in person after (the movie), “BlacKkKlansman”, shows about 9 p.m. People do need to preregister for that.  It’s free. But, there’s only so many people that can fit in the Jayhawk Theatre which is where those films will be (shown). So, people should get on Eventbrite to reserve themselves a spot.”

To get a detailed listing of all of the Brown v. Board commemorative events, visit