Linda Brown, Woman Behind Brown v. Board of Education, Dies at 76

During her elementary years, Linda Brown took a bus two miles across her hometown of Topeka, Kansas, to attend Monroe Elementary School. She and her sisters would then trek across busy intersections and railroad tracks for the remainder of their journey to school, enduring weather conditions such as the bitter frost of winter along the way. While sitting on the bus, the Brown girls would pass numerous elementary schools closer to their neighborhood that they were not allowed to attend because of the color of their skin. Topeka was partially integrated; the middle and high schools were integrated as well as some of the neighborhoods, including Brown’s. However, the elementary schools were still considered “separate but equal.” The schools remained segregated based on Jim Crow laws that were the result of the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court ruling until Brown’s father decided to demand change.

Courtesy: CNN

In 1951, Oliver L. Brown attempted to enroll his daughter Linda in Sumner Elementary School, one of the white elementary schools closer to their home, but she was denied acceptance. Following the rejection of his daughter, he sued the Topeka Board of Education. This lawsuit would soon be joined by four other similar cases that would go on to be heard by the Supreme Court, under the name Brown v. Board of Education. The Browns' case was argued for by Thurgood Marshall, who would go on to win. The Supreme Court would rule that there was inequality in segregated schools, a direct violation of the fourteenth amendment. The ruling faced opposition and was executed at a slow pace since there was not a set deadline for integration, which led to more legal action that addressed this noncompliance. Regardless of the pace, a change was being made in the education system. At nine years old, Linda Brown had made American history.

Years later, Brown attended Washburn University and Kansas State University. She continued to use her platform to speak on educational disadvantages in America and once again pursued legal action to ensure that everyone would have an equal education along with the ACLU in the 90s. She also articulated that she felt that the media exploited her during the first case, dehumanizing her and viewing her only as a figure in history.

Courtesy: Los Angeles Times

Brown died at 76 on Sunday, March 25, in her hometown of Topeka, Kansas. According to CNN, she was remembered by those close to her as a spiritual woman that was still focused on education and children. She cared for children through her church’s daycare program, often reading books for them and teaching them how to play the piano. Brown left behind a legacy that will remain cemented not only in history but also in the lives of the children that were able to obtain an equal education because of her efforts.