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Kansas Archeology Training Program Field School

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

Shawnee County

June 3 - 18, 2022

The Kansas Archeology Training Program at Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site is scheduled for June 3-18, 2022. 

Registration will open March 1, 2022 and be open until May 31, 2022. Registration is limited by activity each day and is on a first come, first served basis. Walk-on registration may be available during the field school. 

The Kansas Historical Society and Kansas Anthropological Association are partnering with the park and the National Park Service’s Midwest Archeological Center (MWAC). The park includes the Monroe Elementary School and commemorates the 1954 Supreme Court’s decision to end legal segregation in the United States. This was a landmark victory for civil rights in America and helped to inspire the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. The National Historic Site is the location of the Monroe Elementary School (built 1927) and the former location of the Monroe School (built 1874). Both schools were constructed as segregated schools for Black children, one of four in Topeka, until the 1954 court decision, the later Monroe Elementary School was still used as a school until 1975 when it was closed for low enrollment. The school property was a part of the Ritchie Tract of land that was purchased by John Ritchie in 1856 with plots sold to predominately African Americans. There were houses originally on many of the plots where the Monroe Elementary School currently stands.

The 2022 KATP field school will explore the remains of one of the houses that is buried on the property that once stood near the earlier Monroe School. The park has little information regarding the preservation of this house and archeology can help tell the story of the people who lived in the Monroe School neighborhood. Excavations may also occur in the field across Monroe Street where the playground once stood and where there are known trash deposits from various points in the school’s history. Understanding these trash deposits can provide clues that expand our understanding of people’s daily lives and use of this field. Archeologists from MWAC will conduct a geophysical survey on the property in June 2021 to create a comprehensive remote sensing dataset that can be used by the KSHS to help identify archeological features for the field school to investigate. MWAC Archeologists will assist Principal Investigator Nikki Klarmann (KSHS) in planning the excavation protocols and developing the field manual for the field school. Census records and early (Sanborn) maps will be vital in understanding the history of the property and creating a clear timeline of owners, what buildings stood when, and what the surrounding area looked like over time.

The goal of the 2022 KATP is to expand our knowledge of the early life of the Monroe School property from when it was purchased by John Ritchie and up to the time when the current Monroe Elementary School was built. We want to better understand the lives of people living in the Monroe School neighborhood by exploring one of the houses that once stood there. This project will help tell the story of the crucial time between the Civil War and the Civil Rights eras that had such a profound impact on people’s lives throughout the country. Research goals will be shaped by input from the National Park Service and their goals for interpretation at the park. When people visit the site, many are unaware or understand the full history of the Monroe School property prior to the 1954 Brown v. Board decision. This project will assist the NPS to tell more of that story and learn more about the community that surrounded this school. There is also an opportunity to work with the community on a Scan and Share program for Archives to collect images and documents from people in the community and to visit buildings surveyed by the City of Topeka and Tennessee Town Neighborhood Improvement Association as part of their HPF grant. Tennessee Town is a nearby neighborhood about a mile northwest of the school, which was settled in the 1870s by freed slaves from Tennessee after the Civil War.

More information will be posted here as it becomes available.

For more information contact Kansas Historical Society Public Outreach Archeologist Nikki Klarmann, Nikki.Klarmann@ks.gov; 785-272-8681, ext. 266.