Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: John Wright, 202-208-6416
For Immediate Release:May 17, 2004
Al Nash, 785-354-1489 x245
Interior Secretary Highlights Department's Role in Heritage Preservation at Brown v. Board Grand Opening

TOPEKA, Kan. - During the Grand Opening ceremony today of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas, Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton shared the importance of preserving this history as part of America's heritage.

President George W. Bush gave the keynote address at the event that coincided with the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decision that led to school desegregation.

"Today we dedicate a national historic site that focuses on an important event in our nation's history, Norton said. "In so doing, we also commemorate the struggle of our people for equality, civil and human rights."

Among the more than 5, 000 people attending today's ceremony were numerous civic and civil rights leaders who worked in partnership with the National Park Service to establish and develop the historic site. Nearly $9 million has been spent renovating Monroe School, which served as one of four segregated elementary schools for African American children in Topeka.

"This place is significant not because of its structure, but because of the meaning, memories, and experiences people associate with it," Norton noted. "Monroe School serves as more than just a symbol of a significant court victory, it is a place where the National Park Service can share the broader story of the struggle and success for social justice."

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site is one of five national park sites in the Sunflower State. The park was created by an Act of Congress in October 1992 and was established in December 1993. Through its new displays and interpretive programs, the site uses the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board case as a springboard to tell the story of the fight for the integration of American society. The new museum and park headquarters opens its doors to the public for the first time tomorrow.


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