Linda Brown, Little Girl at Center of 1954 Desegregation Case Brown v. Board of Education, Dies at 75

Linda Brown has died at the age of 76 leaving behind a legacy as the girl that inspired the Supreme Court decision to end racial segregation in schools

Linda Brown, who made history as the Kansas girl who ended racial segregation in public schools, has died at the age of 76.

The Topeka girl was just nine years old when her father Oliver Brown tried to enroll her at Sumner Elementary School, an all white school in 1951.

When the school refused to allow the black pupil to enroll, her father sued the Topeka Board of Education.

The lawsuit led to the famous 1954 Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education.

Linda’s father was lead plaintiff in the case that saw the Supreme Court end school segregation.

Linda Brown died Sunday afternoon at the Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel in Topeka.

Her sister, Cheryl Brown Henderson, founding president of The Brown Foundation, confirmed the death to The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Brown is pictured front center in an all-black classroom at Monroe School in Topeka in 1953, one year before her lawsuit deemed such racial segregation illegal
Brown (left) is pictured in an undated photo in a classroom with white peers after the Supreme Court case centered on her ended racial segregation in schools across the nation
Brown stands in front of Sumner School in Topeka, Kansas, in 1964 where she was refused enrollment when she was nine, causing her father Oliver Brown to file the 1954 lawsuit
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the famous Supreme Court decision she inspired she spoke at Purdue University in 2004 to share her experience growing up in segregated Topeka

Her family has not commented on her passing.

Her legacy is not only renown in Kansas, but nationwide, according to Kansas Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis.

He says the effect she had ‘on our society would be unbelievable and insurmountable.’

‘This is a huge loss to our community,’ Topeka mayor Michelle De La Isla said.

‘We will continue to champion civil rights. When you look at the diversity of our community, I think we’re already honoring her legacy,’ she added.

‘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,’ Kansas governor Jeff Colyer said in a statement on Twitter.

In 1951 after Linda was denied enrollment at Sumner Elementary, she attended Monroe Elementary School where she sat in an all-black classroom.

Just three years later her father’s efforts – working with the parents of five other black children who also rallied to integrate schools – would change the face of public schools forever.

Oliver Brown joined a dozen other plaintiffs to form a NAACP legal challenge of segregation in Kansas schools, according to CNN.

Brown, third from left, was one of six children involved in the civil rights lawsuit that challenged racial segregation in public schools, pictured in 1953
Linda (left) sits with three other black students whose parents also filed lawsuits against their school boards in an effort to integrate schools, 10 years after the victory in 1964
Brown (right) poses with her two children in 1974 in Topeka, Kansas, where at age nine she was at the center of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case
At the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling banning racial segregation in schools, Linda Brown Smith, left, listens to NAACP executive director Benjamin L Hooks at a ceremony in Columbus, South Carolina in May 1979

The lawsuit saw the US Supreme Court rule unanimously that ‘separate but equal’ schools violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment in May 1954.

In 1985 Linda reflected on her father’s lawsuit for the documentary series Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years.

‘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,’ she said.

‘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,’ she added.

‘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,’ she said.

On May 4, 1987 both of the elementary schools she attended – Monroe and Sumner – became National Historic Landmarks.

SOURCE: The Associated Press; Daily Mail, Marlene Lenthang