Friday, June 29, 2007

'Brown V. Board' School May Be Spared

TOPEKA, Kan. -- The Kansas State Historical Society said [recently] it won't allow city officials to demolish the former all-white school that was at the center of the Brown v. Board of Education case.

The Topeka City Council had given preliminary begin the destruction, but the historical society contends that a 2002 agreement requires the city to preserve the structure until 2012.

To change the building's architectural appearance and structural integrity, the city needs the historical society's permission, said Patrick Zollner, the state agency's director of historic preservation. The covenant, signed by then-Topeka Mayor Butch Felker in 2002, can be amended or released only by mutual written agreement.

"The society would never consent to the demolition of Sumner School," Zollner told The Topeka Capital-Journal on Thursday.

Council and city staff members have said they would like to save the Sumner Elementary School building, but the cost to the city has forced them to consider other options.The art deco building became a symbol of civil rights history when Oliver Brown, a black minister, tried to enroll his daughter in Sumner School in 1950.When the school turned them away, the Browns filed a lawsuit that would eventually lead to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 desegregation decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case.

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