KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The head of the Topeka branch of the NAACP said Thursday that a foundation dedicated to telling the story of the Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case shouldn’t be booted from a National Park site.
Last month, the National Park Service announced the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research had until Dec. 1 to move out of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. An audit into the foundation’s finances is expected to be released any time.
The Rev. Ben Scott, of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said “there is a lot of information we don’t know about” but “we strongly support that the foundation remain at the Brown site.”
The named plaintiff’s daughter, Cheryl Brown Henderson, led the historic site for about six month last year before resigning in December to resume leading the foundation she co-founded.
“Certainly we are appreciative of the NAACP,” Brown Henderson said. “Brown v. Board is in part their story. The case was initiated by them. I think it’s very appropriate that they involve themselves.”
The first time problems were made public came this summer when a federal investigation found Brown Henderson had failed to limit her involvement with the foundation while she led the National Park site. That involvement was seen as a conflict of interest because the investigators determined the foundation gets more than three-quarters of its funding from the park service and employed her sister and boyfriend.
The report also found fault with the recruitment of Brown Henderson, noting the recruitment files were “disorganized and incomplete,” that human resources personnel provided “conflicting and confusing statements” and an alleged endorsement from then-U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback “created an appearance that Brown Henderson was provided an unfair preference.” Normally such positions are awarded to current federal employees. Brownback, now the governor of Kansas, has declined to comment through a spokeswoman.
In 1950, Brown Henderson’s late father, the Rev. Oliver Brown, tried to enroll his older daughter, Linda Brown, in third grade at a white school. When his request was denied, he joined 12 other black families that sued in federal district court in Topeka. Other school desegregation cases from Virginia, South Carolina, Delaware and Washington, D.C., also were appealed to the Supreme Court and argued at the same time.
But because the Brown name was listed first, for many, the face of the case was Linda Brown. She was forced to attend the segregated Monroe School 20 blocks from her home, even though the all-white school was just five blocks away.
Brown Henderson, 60, was too young to be part of the case as a child. But as an adult, she helped organize a group of volunteers who pushed to have the closed Monroe School turned into a site to interpret the story of the decision.
Scott said it’s beneficial to have people at the site who have first-hand recollections of what happened.
“There is no one who can tell that story better than them,” he said. “They are the ones who can make it come alive.”