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