Sumner Elementary School

The moment when the door was blocked.

The then all-white Topeka elementary school that refused Linda Brown from attending leading to Brown vs. Board of Education lawsuit and the desegregation of all schools.

Sumner School with Linda Brown

Sumner School has faced challenges and adversity from its beginning. The first Sumner School was built in either 1875 or 1880 but was only in operation until 1888 before burning down. Originally a black school, it was converted into a school for white children in 1885 while black students were educated in a smaller building located on the property. 

The second Sumner School was damaged in a windstorm 1898 forcing a new school to be built. The school opened in 1901 and remainder in operation until the current Sumner Elementary was constructed just to the north in 1935. 

Sumner entrance sumner b&w

Sumner operated as a white school forcing black children who lived in this surrounding neighborhood to cross major streets and rail yards to attend Monroe Elementary two miles away. In 1954, Linda Brown and her family decided to petition for her to attend Sumner Elementary, the denial of which sparked what would come to be the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education. the Court's decision that separate but equal is inherently unequal set the state for subsequent civil rights cases throughout the country. 

Monroe closed in 1975 and later became the National Park Service’s Brown vs. Board National Historic Site.  Sumner remained in operation until 1996 when it closed to help satisfy requirements of the original decision which was reopened in the eighties.  Since then, it has been held by various public entities before being purchased by a private owner in 2009. 

source: [Brown v Board Sumner Legacy Trust]