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Life and Legacy of Linda Brown
posted by: Melissa | April 04, 2018, 01:55 PM   

Last week, Linda Brown of the famous Brown v. Board of Education supreme court case, passed away at the age of 75 in Topeka, Kansas.  Brown became famous at the age of nine after her father attempted to enroll her in the all-white Sumner Elementary School near their Kansas home. Because she was African-American, her enrollment was denied and her father, Oliver Brown, filed a lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education. Several other plaintiffs joined and the case was eventually heard by the Supreme Court of the United States.


In May of 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that separate educational facilities were inherently unequal and a denial of the 14th amendment. Schools were ordered to desegregate. The timeline for this work, however, was not established until 1955. Thurgood Marshall, her counsel for the trial, would later serve on the Supreme Court as the first African-American justice.


During an interview for “Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years” in 1985, Linda Brown noted her father’s motivations for enrolling her in Sumner. "My father was like a lot of other black parents here in Topeka at that time. They were concerned not about the quality of education that their children were receiving, they were concerned about the amount -- or distance, that the child had to go to receive an education." It took her over two miles, on foot, in dangerous conditions to get to the all-black school on the other side of town.


"He felt that it was wrong for black people to have to accept second-class citizenship, and that meant being segregated in their schools, when in fact, there were schools right in their neighborhoods that they could attend, and they had to go clear across town to attend an all-black school. And this is one of the reasons that he became involved in this suit, because he felt that it was wrong for his child to have to go so far a distance to receive a quality education."


Linda Brown left this world in a time of other “ordinary” students standing up for what they believe. Recently, student protests across the country have called for various education policy changes. As a pioneer for this work, she is an inspiration and example of how important sharing your voice and standing up for what you believe can positively impact the world. In a tweet on March 26, Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer captured this sentiment, “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."


Linda Brown will be remembered not only for her extraordinary life, but also her family’s difficult, but monumental, impact on educational equity for all children across this nation.


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