McKinley Burnett

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McKinley Burnett played a pivotal role in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka school desegregation case as President of the Topeka NAACP by recruiting 13 Topeka families to participate in the court action.

Early life

McKinley Langford Burnett was born in Oskaloosa, Kansas in 1897. In his years of growing up he encountered many acts of discrimination. In school he was not allowed to participate in plays unless he was dancer, in the Army as a soldier he was discriminated against, and as a supply clerk for the Veterans Administration he had many limits because of his skin color. He wanted to do something about this, to end discrimination against African Americans.

In 1948 Burnett became President of the Topeka chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). His focus as president settled on desegregating public schools in Topeka, Kansas. For two years he held meetings and wrote letters, trying to convince the school board to integrate schools. They kept refusing.

Brown v. Board

In 1950 Burnett took his efforts to the next level. He informed the school board if they did not desegregate the schools, he along with the NAACP would go to court. The school board ignored the threat. So then the NAACP took the Topeka school board to court.

Burnett personally recruited thirteen African American families to attempt enrolling their children in Topeka Public Schools' all-white schools for the fall semester of 1950. All 20 children were...
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