TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Sixty years ago this month, a monumental decision came down from the Supreme Court. It said, separate education facilities are unequal, effectively ending segregation.
Nicolette Schleisman sat down with one woman, who was a child when she testified in the Topeka trial.
63 years ago, Kathy Sawyer, was 10-year-old Katherine Carper. She was testifying with her mother, Lena Carper, in the Brown v. Board of education trial in Topeka.
“I certainly didn’t understand at that time, what it was all about,” said Sawyer.
She was called to the stand to explain how she got to one of only four elementary schools in Topeka, several miles from her house. There was a white elementary school in her own neighborhood.
“I think that’s why I was asked to testify. Because and then when we got to school, in the evenings, the busses were very full, of all the kids trying to get home. People standing up, 4-5 to a seat,” said Sawyer.
Sawyer remarks how brave her mother was to be a part of the trial. While she was not afraid of testifying, she was worried about her teachers at her segregated school would react when school resumed.
“I was afraid they would be angry. They weren’t,” said Sawyer.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of integration on May 17th, 1954. She says because she has grown up being involved in the case her whole life, it is not something she always thinks about. But she does think about how far society has come.
“I think , have we gone far enough? No. In fact I see things that look like they’re trying to push it backwards,” said Sawyer.
Sawyer explains that all it takes to change society is one person to stand up and say something.
First Lady Michelle Obama will be speaking to Topeka High Schools to mark the anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Sawyer’s family says Kathy hopes to get an invitation.