Prelude to Brown - 1924: Thurman-Watts v. Coffeyville

1924: Thurman-Watts v. The Board of Education of Coffeyville

African American attorneys and organizations factored in the 1924 challenge from Coffeyville, which had become a first class city that legally operated separate elementary schools. Elisha Scott and R.M. Vandyne, African American attorneys from Topeka, represented Celia Thurman-Watts, whose daughter Victoria was denied admission to Roosevelt Junior High. Washington admitted both African American and white students while only African American students attended Cleveland and only White students were designated to attend Roosevelt. In questioning during depositions, Scott probed the allegiance of school board members to the Ku Klux Klan. The President of the School Board admitted membership and another testified to past membership. Other questions established that the Coffeyville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People supported this suit. As a result, Scott argued the broad issue of prejudice and the practical grounds of overcrowding in the black schools. He won on the narrower grounds that the ninth grade was part of high school and separate high school education was not allowed except in Kansas City, Kansas.

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