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A History of Segregation in Kansas Schools, Part II

1925-1930: Mexican Americans in KCK

Kansas City was the only school district in the state legally allowed to have segregated high schools. The district provided a separate high school for African American students, and a middle school for Mexican American students. 

In 1925, Mexican families fought to attend the all-white Argentine High School in Kansas City.

1930

Saturnino Alvarado portrait

Saturnino Alvarado

A major figure in the effort to integrate public schools in Kansas City, Kansas, Saturnino Alvarado, a shoemaker from Michoacan, Mexico, believed his children, Jesse and Luz, had the right to be educated like any other students living in Argentine.

Although the Mexican students had no conflict with their fellow students, after a week of classes a group of White parents presented a petition to the board of education to have the Mexican students removed from the school. The board refused to take any action on the petition. In anger, the White parents made threats against the Mexican American community. In fear of his children’s safety, Alvarado withdrew them from school and began the fight against the segregation of Mexican and Mexican American students despite the constant threats to him and the Mexican community.

After missing a year of school, the students were reenrolled for the 1926-1927 school year. His efforts were successful as his children graduated from Argentine High School in 1930. 

The segregation of Mexican students was complicated, controversial, and paradoxical. Unlike Black students, Mexicans were not mentioned in state segregation statutes. From 1909 to 1924, Mexican children attended school with White children. However, after their numbers began to increase, white parents began to demand segregation. Kansas City had the largest Mexican population in the state, growing from 506 in 1915 to 2,911 in 1930. In 1930, Mexicans comprised 2.2% of the city’s population.

Segregation for Mexicans appeared to depend on the power of parents and civic organizations and how school officials were able to manipulate the law. One explanation for why segregation statutes did not include Mexicans may have been their federal classification as White.

Other than the Clara Barton Mexican school, whether it was the separate classroom, an annex, or the basement floor, segregation within White schools became the most common experience for Mexican children in Kansas. What they experienced in schools was similar to how their parents were treated in their communities.

1934: McCallop Bus Services

In 1934, McCallop Bus Service was started to transport African American students from Johnson County and Wyandotte County to Northeast Junior High School & Sumner High School.

1950s: Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement enlisted the federal government in the effort to equalize educational opportunities for children of color. Brown vs. Board of Education led to desegregation in schools, which was later accompanied by protests.

This has influenced public education’s history because today we have equal opportunities for all children no matter the color or culture. We welcome equality in our public schools, and we welcome a variety of cultures in our classrooms.

1954: Brown v. Board of Education

Winning plaintiffs of Brown v Board of Education sitting in front of the Supreme Court

Image courtesy of Getty Images

 

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark 1954 Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. The decision reversed Plessy v. Ferguson, ruling that the racial segregation of children in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although the decision did not succeed in fully desegregating public education in the United States, it put the Constitution on the side of racial equality. Brown v. Board of Education was one of the cornerstones of the civil rights movement and helped establish the precedent that “separate-but-equal” education and other services were not, in fact, equal at all.

1958: A Visit from Dr. King

Cover of a historical NAACP program from 1958 with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the front

In 1958, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Sumner High School and predicted the end of segregation.

Next: 1956-1975