I must first apologize for the terrible pictures. They suck, but are still illustrative, so oh well.
I had camped in a small town called Lawrence, Kansas situated midway between Kansas City and Topeka. Though I have asked just about everyone I know and have met what to do in the Midwest, I had heard no suggestions, so I took it upon myself to go to the only place I had heard of. In the heart of Topeka, Kansas is an elementary school that houses the National Historic Site for Brown v Board. The city directions point you through the nicer parts of town, but my mapquest directions took me through the heart of the neighborhood. It wasn’t a terrible neighborhood, don’t get me wrong, but it was distinctly African American. The city’s directions to a civil right’s monument felt a little whitewashed. I parked in the designated large empty pit and walked in. The Black and White signs struck you immediately from the doorway pointing toward differing hallways. The principal’s office was now a bookstore, the first grade classroom an exhibit, the gym an artsy-movie screening room, and the tiny water fountains no longer worked. Having worked so many History Days (including one on this topic), I admired the craft and thought behind the displays, meticulously read the information, and critiqued what I thought was missing (which really wasn’t much – just my personal Virginia sway). One room in particular struck me. In the middle of the exhibit, you walked into a hallway with two big screen tvs on each side, playing video clips of the first day of integrated school from around the country. The hallway was tight and dark, amplifying the shouts of hate as the video showed terrifying images of people scrambling on all sides toward you, making the experience almost real – and scary. After touring the whole thing in my usual pokey way, I went into the gift shop to get my National Parks passport stamped, but was halted by all the great books around me. Usually the guy at the register knows very little about the books in the room, and cares even less, but I overheard a conversation on microfiche and knew I had found a friend. He walked me through his favorite top five books and I felt compelled to buy all of them – but don’t worry I didn’t, I just bought one. But I may be back.