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Chris Hansen Interview

View at Kansas Memory

Creator: Hansen, Chris

Date: October 5, 1992

Level of Description: Item

Material Type: Audiotape, Voice

Call Number: Brown v. Board Oral History Coll. 251, Box 1, Folder 22

Unit ID: 211841

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

Summary: Chris Hansen was an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, starting in 1973. In 1984, after the Brown v. Board desegregation case was reopened, Hansen served on the legal team working on this case. The ACLU was representing 17 children and their parents who claimed that the Topeka USD501 district had not fully complied with the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring segregated schools unconstitutional. The case went before the Federal District Court in October 1986, and four years later after an appeal, the court ruled in favor of the petitioners, stating that Topeka Public Schools had not fully complied with the court decision to desegregate. Hansen's interview discusses his involvement in the case, the plaintiffs (including Linda Brown Smith) and his experiences in Topeka. The interview was conducted by Jean VanDelinder. The Brown v. Board oral history project was funded by Hallmark Cards Inc., the Shawnee County Historical Society, the Brown Foundation for Educational Excellence, Equity, and Research, the National Park Service, and the Kansas Humanities Council. This interview has a signed release for scholarly or educational purposes only.

Space Required/Quantity: Compact cassette audiotape.

Title (Main title): Chris Hansen Interview

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


Biog. Sketch (Full): Chris Hansen

Chris Hansen was born on October 18, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois. His father was a financial analyst and his mother was a homemaker. The family included Chris and his two sisters. In 1969 he received a bachelor’s degree from Carlton College and pursued a childhood dream of becoming an attorney. By 1972 he received his law degree from the University of Chicago. Chris began his career working as an attorney for the Legal Aid Society of New York City.

He was responsible for criminal defense cases. In 1973, after one year with Legal Aid, he joined the staff of the American Civil Liberties Union. His primary assignment was mental health litigation. In 1984 he was assigned to the reopened case of Brown v. Board of Education that was focusing on whether or not Topeka Public Schools had, in fact, ever complied with the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

When Chris Hansen joined the local legal team working on this case, he replaced fellow ACLU attorney Richard Larsen. The substitution was made because Larsen’s caseload limited the time he could devote to the Topeka litigation. After two years of preparation the case was heard in Federal District Court in October of 1986. Four years later in October of 1992, the Federal Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the petitioners, stating that Topeka Public Schools did in fact have facilities that were racially identifiable and as a result the school board must develop a plan for remediation. The school district complied by constructing magnet schools and has since been granted unitary status. During the court proceeding, Chris lived in Topeka for one month. He is still with the ACLU and resides in New York.

Scope and Content

Scope and content: Index
Chris Hansen
American Civil Liberties Union

Page: Topics
01: Involvement in the 1980s, Richard Larsen, Richard Jones, Charles Scott, Sr., Charles Scott, Jr., and Joe Johnson, Compliance with S.C. order in Topeka,

02: Desegregation-School Board’s opinion, Judge Rogers, Court of Appeals, TBOE’s definition of desegregation, student attendance rules, school construction, school closings, transfer policies, transportation policies, faculty attendance rules, faculty assignment rules, faculty hiring rules, test scores, perceptions of schools,

03: Public opinion survey, Kansas standardized test scores, college entrance test scores, Kansas segregation law

04: Patterns, teacher assignments, student assignments, student tracking, Linda Brown, HEW in 1976,

05: HEW, Topeka school district, black community, re-opening of case, District Court, Court of Appeals, Supreme Court, U.S.D. 501,

06: Annexation, Brown case, Atlanta, Freeman v. Pitts, Supreme Court, school desegregation cases in 1990s, conservativism of courts,

07: Resegregation, neighborhood school plans, bussing plans, residential patterns, school board actions, geographic boundary system,

08: Belvoir, west side schools, ratio, Local attorneys, Legal Defense Fund, ACLU, lead counsel

09: Legal strategies, Linda Brown, Elisha Scott, Charles Scott, Sr., Charles Scott, Jr.,

10: Hugh Speer, Lucinda Todd, local NAACP chapter, Life in Topeka during the 1950s, internal segregation, Supreme Court, Richard Kluger, Arthur Benson

11: Arthur Benson, Kansas City case, Brown case, children’s rights litigation, foster care, Judge Clark, Topeka, Monroe,

12: Racism in Topeka, Simple Justice, Thurgood Marshall, social change

13: Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Brown v. Board of Education, Exodusters and Blacks in Topeka, Kansas


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Additional Information for Researchers

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