Then & Now: South Park Elementary and the Walker School

In 1887, the community of South Park, Kansas, was founded. A year later, District 90 was organized to educate the town’s children, and a one room school—known as the Walker School—was built.

Walker School

Walker School, 1949. Photograph courtesy of Bill Curtis.

In 1912, a second school was built, and the era of segregated schooling began in the community: white children attended the new school, and black children continued to attend the Walker School.

By the late 1940s, the Walker School, now a two room school, was delapidated and shabby. An outhouse served as the restroom facilities, and heating in the building was unreliable. When a bond issue was passed to build a new, modern school building for white children only, black parents were outraged. Despite their protests, however, the school board refused to admit black children to the new South Park School when it opened in 1947. In response, the parents, teachers and a group of concerned citizens filed a lawsuit, Webb v. School District No. 90, against the school district.

Esther Brown

Merriam resident Esther Brown was instrumental in organizing the lawsuit against School District 90. She later played a prominent role in bringing the 1954 Brown v. Topeka Board of Education lawsuit as well.

As the lawsuit made its way through the courts, South Park’s black families boycotted the Walker School, choosing instead to hire two teachers—Corinthian Nutter and Hazel McCray Weddington—to teach the children in private homes. In 1949, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a state law prohibiting segregation in small towns, ruling in favor of admitting black children to South Park Elementary. The case is considered an important forerunner to the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit which would make school segregation illegal nationwide.

Walker School students and teachers

Corinthian Nutter, back left, and Hazel McCray Weddington, back right, and their students, 1948

 Today, the Walker School still stands at 9420 W. 50th Terrace in Merriam, and serves as the home of the Philadelphia Baptist Church.

former Walker School

Philadelphia Baptist Church, 1997

 The South Park Elementary School, located at 8715 W. 49th Street, closed in 2007 due to dwindling enrollment. The building’s future is currently unclear.

South Park School

South Park Elementary School, 1996

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1 Comment

Filed under Cities & Towns, Research, Schools

One response to “Then & Now: South Park Elementary and the Walker School

  1. john

    you are wrong wrong on your dates

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