H.R. 920

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site Expansion Act

 

STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC LANDS, CONCERNING H.R. 920, TO AMEND THE ACT ENTITLED “ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE IN THE STATE OF KANSAS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES” TO PROVIDE FOR INCLUSION OF ADDITIONAL RELATED SITES IN THE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

 APRIL 21, 2021

Chairman Neguse, Ranking Member Fulcher, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's (Department) views on H.R. 920, a bill to amend the Act entitled “Act to provide for the establishment of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in the State of Kansas, and for other purposes” to provide for inclusion of additional related sites in the National Park System, and for other purposes.

The Department supports efforts to broaden public understanding of the events that led to the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education (Brown).  The Court’s finding that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional was unquestionably a pivotal event in our nation’s civil rights struggle.

H.R. 920 would expand the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas by authorizing the addition of two school sites located in South Carolina to the park unit upon their acquisition by the National Park Service (NPS).  It would also designate sites in Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Virginia as affiliated areas of the National Park System.  The sites included in H.R. 920 are all associated with the four additional court cases that were consolidated into the Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court case.  The affiliated areas would not be managed by the NPS, but they would be required to be managed in accordance with any law generally applicable to units of the National Park System.  The affiliated areas would be eligible for NPS technical and financial assistance. The NPS would be required to prepare general management plans for the proposed sites in South Carolina—Summerton High School and Scott’s Branch High School in Clarendon County—and for the proposed affiliated areas.

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site was established in Topeka, Kansas, on October 26, 1992, by Public Law 102-525.  The park opened to the public in 2004 on the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling.  The park’s Monroe Elementary School and Sumner Elementary School sites in Topeka, were designated National Historic Landmarks in 1987.  This national historic site tells the story of all five of the U.S. Supreme Court lawsuits with a special emphasis on the one brought on behalf of Linda Brown, an African American child who was denied the right to go to a public school near her home because it was for white students only.  As the lawsuit that was the lead name for the five cases that were combined in the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Brown case became the most well-known of these cases. 

However, the four other cases, and the sites associated with those cases, also tell compelling stories about the struggle to end school segregation:

  • Summerton High School in South Carolina was an all-white school built in 1936.  In 1947, Levi Pearson, a black landowner, petitioned the local school board to provide school bus transportation for his children, detailing the glaring differences in expenditures, buildings, and services available for white and black students.  That petition led to a series of court cases including the one brought by plaintiffs in Briggs v. Elliott, which was included in the Brown v. Board decision in 1954.  Of the five schools mentioned in Pearson’s petition, Summerton High School is the only one still standing.  It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its national significance and is used as administrative offices for Clarendon School District 1.
     
  • Robert Russa Moton School, the all-black school in Farmville, Virginia, was the location of a student-led strike in 1951 that lead to Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, a case that became part of Brown v. Board of Education. The site is designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its national significance and is now the Robert Russa Moton Museum, governed by the Moton Museum, Inc. and affiliated with Longwood University.
     
  • Howard High School in Wilmington, Delaware, was the first high school for African Americans in the state of Delaware.  Parents of students bused to Howard included the plaintiffs in Belton v. Gebhart, who sued to allow admittance to the closer all-white Claymont High School.  Howard High School served the entire state of Delaware.  The site is designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its national significance.  Now the Howard High School of Technology, it is an active school administered by the New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District.  The all-white Claymont High School, which denied plaintiffs admission, is now the Claymont Community Center, administered by the Brandywine Community Resource Council, Inc.  The Hockessin School #107C (Hockessin Colored School) was the all-black school in Hockessin, Delaware that one of the plaintiffs in Belton v. Gebhart was required to attend with no public transportation provided.  It is now utilized by Friends of Hockessin Colored School #107, Inc. as a community facility.
     
  • John Philip Sousa Junior High School was built in 1950 in the Fort Dupont neighborhood in the District of Columbia as an all-white school.  When 12 African American students were denied admission, the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Bolling v. Sharpe case was brought.  The case was complex because the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause applies only to the states.  This case held that school segregation was unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and was noted in the Brown v. Board decision.  The site is designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its national significance.  John Philip Sousa Junior High School, now John Philip Sousa Middle School, is owned by the District of Columbia and administered by the District of Columbia Public Schools.

We also recommend redesignating Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site as Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park, to reflect the park’s larger geographic scope.  We would be happy to work with the sponsor and the Committee on amendments.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide this statement for the record.

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