Voices from Topeka—60 Years After Brown V. Board of Education

StoryCorps Records with the Kansas Humanities Council for the 60th Anniversary of the landmark Brown V. Topeka KS Board of Education case

Former Highland Park Principal, Dale Cushionberry, stands with Faciliator Anna Berlanga  and J.B. Bauersfeld, a Highland Park High graduate.

Former Highland Park Principal, Dale Cushionberry, stands with Faciliator Anna Berlanga and J.B. Bauersfeld, a Highland Park High graduate.

Special guest post by StoryCorps’ Custom Service Team.

A few weeks ago, StoryCorps Facilitators, Cristina Kim and Anna Berlanga, found themselves in Topeka, Kansas, working with our partners at The Kansas Humanities Council for the 60th Anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Topeka KS Board of Education desegregation case, whose decision was released on May 17th.

The trip was part of the other many town-wide celebrations for the occasion–including a High School graduation ceremony with a special Baccalaureate speech delivered by First Lady Michelle Obama who also commemorated the anniversary.

The Kansas Humanities Council hosted three StoryCorps recording days to capture conversations between generations of Topekans, about their school and life experiences, how those have changed over time, and how Topeka can grow from it all. Cristina and Anna were witness to moments of personal and community growth as they collected these stories. “They had the people that experienced segregation, but also 2014 high school graduates,” Anna told us, “I thought that was impressive. They weren’t just getting the VIPs, but regular people too.”

StoryCorps Facilitator Christina Kim with participants Madison Wallace and Darren Canady, completing paperwork and chatting before the interview.

StoryCorps Facilitator Christina Kim with participants Madison Wallace and Darren Canady, completing paperwork and chatting before the interview.

From Darren Canady and Madison Wallace, who were strangers before coming to StoryCorps, who had a real conversation about race while attending Topeka High School to Katherine Sawyer, who remembered what it was like being a child plaintiff in the Brown v. Topeka KS Board of Education case and segregation in Topeka as she experienced it. The stories collected during StoryCorps 3 day visit were all interlaced with moments of reflection and personal connections, making it an important community event.

Image 3-- Anna and two participants

Participants Maxine Patterson and Melvin Patterson with Anna just after their interview.

“The stories we collected provide an incredibly important perspective on one of the most important legal cases in the history of the United States,” said Cristina. “However, and perhaps more importantly, the recording experience gave the community the opportunity to reconnect and reflect on the past 60 years since the 1954 decision. There is still a long way to go in the fight for racial justice and equity but preserving historical memories and sharing stories is an important part of that struggle. Recording the stories of Topeka, 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, reinforced my belief that it is only by genuinely listening and talking with people that we can begin to strive and build a more just and kind world.”

Big thanks to The Kansas Humanities Council and the city of Topeka for the amazing recording trip!



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