McKinley Burnett was born January 9, 1897, in Oskaloosa, Kansas. Facing discrimination most of his life both in school and work, Burnett wrote many letters about the injustices he faced.
In 1948 Burnett became president of the Topeka chapter of the NAACP to try and end discrimination. Although many attempts to desegregate schools in Kansas had been made since 1881, none of them were successful. In 1950 Burnett threatened to take the schools to court, but the school board ignored his warning.
Burnett persuaded 13 families to enroll their children in white schools and all of them were denied, so in February 1951 the NAACP filed suit.
See the letter from NAACP Assistant Special counsel Robert L Carter to McKinley Burnett, September 14, 1951.
Three years later the Supreme Court reviewed the case and on May 17, 1954 ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional. Burnett worked as president until 1963 and died in 1968.
Entry: Burnett, McKinley
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2012
Date Modified: January 2017
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.