Former student Carolyn Campbell said with pride, “I am thankful to share my journey that began as a proud product of segregation. Of all four Black elementary schools (Monroe, Buchanan, Washington and McKinley), my home away from home was McKinley Elementary in North Topeka. At McKinley, we were educated, nurtured, and valued. Every day we stepped through the doors, well-educated, strict but caring Black teachers stressed excellence. I hope I am making it clear there were high expectations, our teachers saw potential in each of us. Ethel Williams Barbour was our principal, she had a beautiful smile and nurturing spirit. Mr. McDonald was our kind custodian, and my next-door neighbor, Geraldine Harmon, was my second-grade teacher. My mama had to tell me that I couldn’t call her Jerry at school. One of the life skills we were taught was saving money. There was an actual bank modeled after real banks, and we could open a savings account.” 

McKinley Elementary School
ca. 1919

Palmer Blackwell gave his account of relying on teachers for more than education, “The teacher Mrs. Monroe would come to my house and pick me up and take me to school,” he said.

During the flood of 1951 many students were transferred to the Buchanon Elementary School as North Topeka had gotten hit pretty badly. After the landmark decision of the Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board of Education to desegregate many schools closed in Topeka. McKinley was closed shortly after at the end of 1954 due to Topeka’s new neighborhood school district plans. Unlike the Monroe & Buchanan Elementary School schools that were able to be restored into functional facilities once again. With Monroe becoming the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site ran by the National Park Service. And Buchanan being renovated to become the Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc. facility. McKinley and Sumner, the school at the center of the Brown v. Board of Education case, sit and further deteriorate. The McKinley school is and has been used as storage for many years but according to the owner has suffered at the hands of a few break-ins where vandals have done stolen and damaged items inside.