Linda Brown, girl at centre of school desegregation case, dies at 76

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Linda Brown, the Kansas girl at the centre of the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that struck down racial segregation in American schools, has died at the age 76, Guardian UK reports.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel at NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., said in a statement that Linda Brown is one of a 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.

"I played with children that were Spanish-American", Linda Brown said in a 1985 interview.

Linda's sister, Cheryl Brown Henderson, the founding president of Mission-based The Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, confirmed the death.

That same year, the district adopted a desegregation plan that closed eight elementary schools and opened several new elementary and magnet schools.

The ensuing court case was handled and argued by the NAACP's lead attorney, Thurgood Marshall, who went on years later to be appointed the first African-American justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.


Linda Brown wanted to go only to the Sumner School. They enforced separate public drinking fountains for blacks and whites, as well as extreme rules and taxes imposed on blacks who tried to vote, keeping most from participating in elections and helping white leaders remain in power.

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that separating black and white children was unconstitutional because it denied black children the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

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.

Linda Brown Smith, 9, is shown in this 1952 photo. When the school blocked her enrollment her father sued the Topeka Board of Education.

"Federal Judge Richard Rogers sided with the school district in a 1987 decision, but an appeals court reversed his ruling in 1989 and the Supreme Court chose not to review that decision".

"She would read books to children, she was all about children and education".


"To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications exclusively because of their race", the court said, "generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone".

Sixty-four "years ago a young girl from Topeka brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America", Kansas governor Jeff Colyer wrote on Twitter.

"Today we honor Linda Brown and all the fights we have left to win". (Some sources say she was born in 1942.) Raised in Topeka, she said she grew up playing with children of all races and didn't think twice about attending whites-only Sumner.

Compliance with the Supreme Court's decision was not immediate, with several states resisting the order to desegregate.

To reach the bus that carried her and her sisters 2 miles across town to the all-black school, she said she had to walk through railroad yards and across a busy avenue.

By 1958, seven states still had laws segregating public schools, and three states did in 1961.


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". "We will continue to champion civil rights". Topeka, a city that was less than 10 percent black at the time of the case, had integrated high schools and had begun integrating its middle schools.

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