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September 17, 2018

Letter from the Director of Undergraduate Studies

Dear students,


Welcome back! I hope you all had an enjoyable summer. I am the new Director of Undergraduate Studies in Ethnic Studies. That means that I am now the go-to person for all questions and advising that pertain to requirements for the Ethnic Studies major and minor. You are still more than welcome to speak with your previous advisor or contact other Ethnic Studies faculty to discuss your courses and interests, but I will do the primary advising to make sure you are meeting the requirements for the major or minor.

A little about me, I’m kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian), born and raised in Hawai’i. I joined the UO faculty in 2014 and I regularly teach courses on Pacific Island Studies, Indigenous Feminism’s and Native film. I also teach in WGSS.

I’m very excited to be in this new position and look forward to meeting with current and future majors and minors. Please feel free to drop by my office hours in 203 Alder Building on Mondays from 1:30-3:30pm or email me to make an appointment with me.

Have a great year and welcome back!

Lani Teves

Assistant Professor

Ethnic Studies, Director of Undergraduate Studies

WGSS, Director of Graduate Studies

University of Oregon

Make an advising appointment with me: https://calendly.com/lteves

https://www.uncpress.org/book/9781469640556/defiant-indigeneity/

April 5, 2018

Prof. Charise Cheney’s article in The Conversation

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

https://theconversation.com/much-of-what-you-think-you-know-about-linda-brown-a-central-figure-in-brown-v-board-of-education-is-wrong-94082

“Much of what you think you know about Linda Brown – a central figure in Brown v. Board of Education – is wrong”-Dr. Charise Cheney

 

As the nation commemorates the life of Linda Brown Thompson – the public face of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case – Brown is being celebrated as a heroic young girl from Topeka who “brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America.”

But the story behind the historic Supreme Court case, as I plan to show in my forthcoming book, “Blacks Against Brown: The Black Anti-Integration Movement in Topeka, Kansas, 1941-1954,” is much more complex than the highly inaccurate but often-repeated tale about the case. That tale is that – as recounted in this news story – the case “began with Brown’s father Oliver, who tried to enroll her at the Sumner School, an all-white elementary school in Topeka just a few blocks from the Browns’ home.” Or that Oliver Brown was a “determined father who took Linda Brown by the hand and made history.”

As my research shows, that tale is at odds with two great historical ironies of Brown v. Board. The first irony is that Oliver Brown was actually a reluctant participant in the Supreme Court case that would come to be named after him. In fact, Oliver Brown, a reserved man, had to be convinced to sign on to the lawsuit because he was a new pastor at church that did not want to get involved Topeka NAACP’s desegregation lawsuit, according to various Topekans whose recollections are recorded in the Brown Oral History Collection at the Kansas State Historical Society.

The second irony is that, of the five local desegregation cases brought before the Supreme Court by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1953, Brown’s case – formally known as Oliver Brown et al., v. Board of Education of Topeka, et al. – ended up being the lead case. In a twist of fate, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision brought widespread attention to a city where many blacks actually resisted school integration. That not-so-small detail has been overshadowed by the way the case is presented in history.

Black resistance to integration

While school desegregation may have symbolized racial progress for many blacks throughout the country, that simply was not the case in Topeka. In fact, most of the resistance to the NAACP’s school desegregation efforts in Topeka came from Topeka’s black citizens, not whites.

“I didn’t get anything from white folks,” Leola Brown Montgomery, wife of Oliver and mother of Linda, recalled. “I tell you here in Topeka, unlike the other places where they brought these cases we didn’t have any threats” from whites.

Prior to the Brown case, black Topekans had been embroiled in a decade-long conflict over segregated schools that began with a lawsuit involving Topeka’s junior high schools. When the Topeka School Board commissioned a poll to determine black support for integrated junior high schools in 1941, 65 percent of black parents with junior high school students indicated that they preferred all-black schools, according to school board minutes.

Separate but equal

Another wrinkle to the story is that the city’s four all-black elementary schools – Buchanan, McKinley, Monroe and Washington – had resources, facilities and curricula that were comparable to that of Topeka’s white schools. The Topeka school board actually adhered to the “separate-but-equal” standard established by the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case.

Even Linda Brown recalled the all-black Monroe Elementary School that she attended as a “very nice facility, being very well-kept.”

Linda Brown Smith, shown at age 9 in 1952. AP

“I remember the materials that we used being of good quality,” Linda Brown stated in a 1985 interview.

That made the Topeka lawsuit unique among the cases the NAACP Legal Defense Fund combined and argued before the Supreme Court in 1953. Black schoolchildren in Topeka did not experience overcrowded classrooms like those in Washington, D.C., nor were they subjected to dilapidated school buildings like those in Delaware or Virginia.

While black parents in Delaware and South Carolina petitioned their local school boards for bus service, the Topeka School Board voluntarily provided buses for black children. Topeka’s school buses became central to the local NAACP’s equal access complaint due to weather and travel conditions.

Quality education was “not the issue at that time,” Linda Brown recalled, “but it was the distance that I had to go to acquire that education.”

Another unique characteristic of Topeka public schools was that black students went to both all-black elementary and predominantly white junior high and high schools. This fact presented another challenge for the Topeka NAACP’s desegregation crusade. The transition from segregated elementary schools to integrated junior and senior high schools was a harsh and alienating one. Many black Topekans recalled the overt and covert racism of white teachers and administrators. “It wasn’t the grade schools that sunk me,” Richard Ridley, a black resident and Topeka High School alumnus who graduated in 1947, told interviewers for the Brown Oral History Collection at the Kansas State Historical Society. “It was the high school.”

Black teachers cherished

A primary reason that black Topekans fought the local NAACP’s desegregation efforts is because they appreciated black educators’ dedication to their students. Black residents who opposed school integration often spoke of the familial environment in all-black schools.

Linda Brown herself praised the teachers at her alma mater, Monroe Elementary, for having high expectations and setting “very good examples for their students.

Black teachers proved to be a formidable force against the local NAACP. “We have a situation here in Topeka in which the Negro Teachers are violently opposed to our efforts to integrate the public schools,” NAACP branch Secretary Lucinda Todd wrote in a letter to the national NAACP in 1953.

Black supporters of all-black schools used a number of overt and covert tactics to undermine NAACP members’ efforts. Those tactics included lobbying, networking, social ostracism, verbal threats, vandalism, sending harassing mail, making intimidating phone calls, the Brown Oral History Collection reveals.

But the national office of the NAACP never appreciated the unique challenges that its local chapter faced. The Topeka NAACP struggled to recruit plaintiffs, despite their door-to-door canvassing.

Fundraising was also a major problem. The group could not afford the legal services of their attorneys and raised only $100 of the $5,000 needed to bring the case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unheralded legacy

History ultimately would not be on the side of the majority of Topeka’s black community. A small cohort of local NAACP members kept pushing for desegregation, even as they stood at odds with most black Topekans.

Linda Brown and her father may be remembered as the faces of Brown v. Board of Education. But without the resilience and resourcefulness of three local NAACP members – namely, Daniel Sawyer, McKinley Burnett and Lucinda Todd – there would have been no Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

The real story of Brown v. Board may not capture the public imagination like that of a 9-year-old girl who “brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America.” Nevertheless, it is the truth behind the myth. And it deserves to be told.

February 24, 2016

ES 101Intro to Ethnic Studies

December 16, 2015

Reading Citizen Min by Holly Yasui

Holly Yasui is a freelance writer, editor and translator (Spanish to English – tried to study Japanese at the university but couldn’t get the hang of it!) living in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico. She was born in Denver, Colorado, received a bachelors degree in fine arts from the University of Colorado and a masters degree in communication arts  from the University of Wisconsin; and lived and worked in Seattle, Washington, before moving to Mexico. She is currently working on a tribute to Min Yasui to take place in 2016, the centennial of her father’s birth. She would greatly appreciate help from any readers who have materials, especially recordings (audio or film/video) of Minoru Yasui that they might be willing to loan for this project. Please contact her through Discover Nikkei at Editor@DiscoverNikkei.org.

February 26, 2016 at 12:00pm

Location: Education Building RM 176

Contact: Irum Shiekh



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