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Linda Brown of Historic Brown v. Board of Education, Dies at 76

27 March 2018

Brown, the Kansas girl at the center of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down racial segregation in schools, has died at age 76.

Brown's father, Oliver, became involved in the case because he found it unreasonable for his daughter to commute to an all-black school that was distant from their home, when schools-albeit white schools-were right in their neighborhood. Ultimately after about two years on trial, the Supreme Court unanimously declared it was unconstitutional for states to establish laws to create separate public schools based on race.

Though segregation was illegal in schools after the Brown v. Board ruling, it nonetheless continued because of opposition from racists, as well as due to the prevalence of separate black and white neighborhoods, which led to de facto segregation in local schools. "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".

While her name will forever be a part of American civil rights history, her contributions to the community after the case are part of her legacy, too, longtime friend Carolyn Campbell said.

"Linda Brown is one of that special band of heroic young people who, along with her family, courageously fought to end the ultimate symbol of white supremacy - racial segregation in public schools". She later became an educational consultant and public speaker.

In 1951, Brown was banned from attending a Kansas primary school for being African American, along with several other families in Kansas.

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"She stands as an example of how ordinary schoolchildren took center stage in transforming this country", she said.

When asked about her role in the historic case she told NPR it was her father who deserved the credit but added, "I am very proud that this happened to me and my family and I think it has helped minorities everywhere".

She was a divorcee from her first marriage, and after her second husband's death she went on to marry William Thompson in the mid-1990s. According to the Brown Foundation, which promotes the history of the case, Oliver Brown was named the lead plaintiff "as a legal strategy to have a man at the head of the roster".

As soon as Brown and other black children's enrollment was disqualified, the civil rights group filed a lawsuit on behalf of the 13 families, representing different states.

High schools and junior high schools were integrated, too, she said.

As a mother of two children who had attended racially diverse schools, she said, "By them going to an integrated school, they are advancing much more rapidly than I was at the age that they are now". The parents argued that because of housing patterns in Topeka, racially segregated schools remained in the city, in violation of the 1954 ruling. "I remember the steps being so big and I was so small". "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", Brown said.

Linda Brown of Historic Brown v. Board of Education, Dies at 76