Linda Brown: Student whose case ended segregation in U.S. public schools dies at 77

March 27, 2018 at 08:15 am | History

Farida Dawkins

Farida Dawkins | Contributor

March 27, 2018 at 08:15 am | History

Linda Brown...Chicago Tribune

Linda Brown, who was a public speaker, educational consultant, and civil rights activist died on March 25 at the age of 77. Brown was born on February 20, 1943, in Topeka, Kansas. The oldest of three children, she was required to cross a railroad track and take a bus to school because of racial discrimination.

Brown’s name became synonymous with the crusade against segregation in American schools when at the age of eight, she was denied admission to an elementary school. This sparked the Brown v. Board of Education case taken to supreme court; on the behalf of 13 black families whose children were also denied access to schools based on their skin color.

Brown’s father’s name appeared on the docket first due to the chronological order of the list of plaintiffs. “My father pondered, ‘Why? Why should my child walk four miles when there is a school only four blocks away?” recalled Brown before her death.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) asked the families to attempt the school admissions in 1950 knowing they would be denied and used that as the catalyst to file the iconic lawsuit.  Thurgood Marshall, the prominent and future Supreme Court Justice led the team of attorneys for the plaintiffs.

The end result was that in 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled “in favor of the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education, disavowing the notion of “separate but equal” and concluding that segregated facilities deprived African-American children of a richer, fairer educational experience,” according to Biography.

After elementary school, Brown briefly moved to Missouri. She later returned to Kansas. She graduated from Washburn University and Kansas State University.

Brown continued to advocate for desegregation in school by reopening the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1979 with the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1993, the Court of Appeals ruled that schools in Kansas were still discriminatory towards African-Americans. Three new schools were built as a result of the ruling.

In Brown’s honor, Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer tweeted: “Sixty-four years ago a young girl from Topeka brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America,” “Linda Brown’s life reminds us that sometimes the most unlikely people can have an incredible impact and that by serving our community we can truly change the world.”

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