Topeka's Hispanic segregation often forgottentags: racism, civil rights, segregation, Brown
The pretext was English-language instruction, but the goal seems to have been segregation.
Until the early 1940s, Topeka operated a separate primary school for Mexican-American children in facilities that were significantly worse than those provided for their black and white peers.
Located at S.E. 2nd and S.E. Madison, the Branner Annex was a makeshift building with outhouses where the city’s Mexican-American students attended their first four years of schooling, including kindergarten, says Nick Murray, an educator at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. Most of its teachers were white.
The annex seems to have been in use sometime around the early 1920s and lasted until pressure from Hispanic parents fighting segregation finally prompted the city to commit in 1942 to shutting it down and including its students in Topeka’s all-white classrooms.
Topeka resident Lupe Perez, 80, remembers attending the Branner Annex during the last two years of its existence.
“I did not know why, when the neighborhood was a mix of white, black and Mexican, we had to go to different schools,” Perez recalls of her time at Branner Annex. “I would ask, and my mother would say, ‘That’s the way it is.’ ”
The history of educating Hispanic students separately is often forgotten, says Murray, but is another part of the story of segregation, and shows integration was “a step-by-step process.”
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