Brown vs Board of Education Mural in Washburn University School of Law

Photograph: Brown vs Board mural, view one.

Michael Toombs
Non Nobis Solum,
Not for Ourselves Alone, 2023
Acrylic and spray paint on canvas

In the mural Non Nobis Solum, Not for Ourselves Alone, the foundation of each painting is the surreal spirit of the historical times where the realistic paintings are embedded into the emotion of the sky and clouds during that period of time.

Panel 1 - The Birth of Integrated Education in Topeka, Kansas

Click image for larger version.

The first foundation panel reflects the time between 1850 through 1916. It is a partial dark and disturbing sky representing the anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces in 1850. This part of the panel carried through the Civil War to 1865. The lighter skies represent transitioning to the educational visions of the freedman and scholars and the beginning of Lincoln College celebrating the ending of slavery. Ichabod Washburn—a Congregationalist deacon, industrialist, and abolitionist back east—was the donor whose generous gift allowed the social and educational mission of Lincoln College in Topeka, Kansas to thrive. He passed away before ever setting foot on the campus, but the college was renamed Washburn University in his honor, and in 1903, a law school was established in Topeka that also bore this benefactor's name. Like its namesake, Washburn University School of Law made a central part of its mission "the creation of a more just society."

Panel 2 – The Challenge to Racial Segregation

Click image for larger version.

The foundational sky of the panel shared the dark and disturbing colors began to open with blue at the top and a brighter yellow toward the bottom of the panel. This embedded painting shows one of the 13 plaintiff families in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Lucinda Todd, and her young daughter, Nancy. Lucinda and her nephew, Paul Brady, BBA '51, JD '56, H '04, were pro-integration activists in Topeka. They, and many others, met each evening around Lucinda's table, a symbol in the painting of the community working together. Lucinda's involvement in the Brown v. Board case at the federal district court of Topeka inspired her nephew Paul to attend Washburn Law, and he became the first Black federal administrative law judge. Elisha Scott, shown on the first panel, was one the first three Black Washburn Law graduates, earning his degree in 1916. His sons, Charles, '48, and John, '47, Scott were also educated at Washburn Law as well as Charles Bledsoe, and all worked on the Brown case. They lost their case in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas and appealed directly to the United States Supreme Court. The case was eventually heard there with lead attorney, Thurgood Marshall, arguing the case for the plaintiffs. Loren Miller, BA '24, JD '28, represented in the painting, was the lawyer who wrote an appellate brief for the case. Sherman Parks, Sr., BBA '49, JD '55, the highest ranking African American judicial officer and the first African American appellate judge in Kansas, is also depicted in the painting.

Panel 3 - Enforcement of the Supreme Court's Decision in Brown v. Board Holding that Separate Education is not Equal

Click image for larger version.

The foundational sky is turning from darkness into light, pastel colors bringing a bright environment for the next phase after the successful completion of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education case, decided in favor of the plaintiffs. This next phase was the enforcement case, called "Brown II," in which the federal district courts are empowered by the Supreme Court to order local school districts to desegregate and integrate local public schools. Washburn Law faculty helped with the enforcement in Topeka Public Schools. The faculty members depicted are Bill Rich, Ron Griffin, Myrl Duncan, and Allen Easley. Many lawyers from around the country also participated and are depicted throughout the panel. Enforcement included busing children of color to schools that had been all white schools previously.

Panel 4 – History is Made in Topeka

Click image for larger version.

The foundational sky of the panel shows the promise in its bright sky embedded with the hope of never repeating the mistakes of the past as we move into the future. Washburn Law alumni worked to get the national park site in Topeka to commemorate the decision and to teach history to all who come to Kansas to visit. Jim Slattery, BA '70, JD '75, was in the United States House of Representatives, representing the 2nd District of Kansas, when he introduced the House bill that created the national park site in Topeka. Sen. Robert Dole, BA '52, JD '52, was in the Senate at the time and introduced a Senate bill to secure the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park in Topeka. National Park Service Ranger Dexter Armstrong, shown on this panel, was an employee of the site and represents the evolving status of people of color. As you view the fourth and final panel, you will notice a lack of density in the panel. This is symbolic of the open-ended future yet to come with the hope of continued freedom for all. The spirit of Ichabod Washburn is walking toward the future.

Short URL for this page: