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Maurita Davis Interview

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Creator: Davis, Maurita

Date: July 15, 1994

Level of Description: Item

Material Type: Audiotape, Voice

Call Number: Brown v. Board Oral History Coll. 251, Box 1, Folder 14

Unit ID: 211839

Restrictions: This interview has a signed release for scholarly or educational purposes only.

Summary: Maurita (Burnett) Davis was born October 8, 1923, in Topeka, Kansas, to her mother Lena Jones Burnett and her father McKinley Burnett. She attended the segregated Monroe school for eight years before she entered the integrated Crane Junior High. Her interview focuses on her experiences with racial discrimination, her time at Monroe, and her father's work in the NAACP. In 1948 her father became president of the Topeka NAACP, and he would later organize members of the NAACP to challenge the segregation of public schools at the primary level (secondary schools were already integrated). These dedicated citizens would become plaintiffs in the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The interview was conducted by Jean VanDelinder. This interview has a signed release for scholarly or educational purposes only.

Space Required/Quantity: Compact cassette audiotape.

Title (Main title): Maurita Davis Interview

Part of: Brown v. Topeka Board of Education Oral History Collection at the Kansas State Historical Society.

Biography

Biog. Sketch (Full): Maurita Davis

Maurita (Burnett) Davis was born October 8, 1923, at home at 1522 Quincy Street, Topeka, Kansas. Her mother, Nina Jones Burnett, was born and raised in the little town of Perry, Kansas. McKinley Burnett, her father, hailed from Oskaloosa, a neighboring community to Perry. Her maternal grandparents also had Kansas roots in Bonner Springs. Her paternal grandparents were from the state of Tennessee. Maurita was one of five children. Once the Burnett children reached school age they had only to travel next door to the segregated Monroe Elementary School. As a consequence they attended grades one thruough eight at Monroe. Junior high schools in Topeka were integrated for ninth grade. Topeka High School was the only facility at that level, and except for extracurricular activities, was fully integrated.

Maurita’s father, McKinley Burnett, garnered his interest in civil rights during military service in World War II. He insisted on being treated fairly and was quick to protest the treatment of his fellow African American soldiers. His commitment was further fueled by segregation at home in Topeka. In 1948 Burnett was selected to head the Topeka Branch of the NAACP. From that vantage point he started down a road leading to the end of legal racial segregation. In 1948 Maurita watched her father’s crusade on behalf of the Topeka NAACP.

For a period of two years he attempted to persuade the Topeka Board of Education to integrate their elementary schools. Undaunted by the board’s refusal, he decided to organize a legal challenge under the auspices of the NAACP. He worked tirelessly to find plaintiffs. Fortunately, chapter secretary Lucinda Todd as well as legal counsel Charles Scott, John Scott, and Charles Bledsoe, aided him. The resulting case became known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

Maurita’s late husband, James Parker Davis, served in the Kansas Legislature from 1959 to 1973. He represented Kansas City, Kansas, in Wyandotte County. Mrs. Davis still resides in Kansas City.

Scope and Content

Locators:

Locator Contents
122-10-02-01   

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Restrictions: This interview has a signed release for scholarly or educational purposes only.