Linda Brown, the Kansas girl at the center of the 1954 supreme court ruling that struck down racial segregation in American schools, has died at 76. Brown’s sister, Cheryl Brown Henderson, founding President of the Brown Foundation, confirmed the death to the Topeka Capital-Journal but further declined comment from the family.
Kansas Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said Brown’s legacy was not only in the state but nationwide. The effect she had “on our society would be unbelievable and insurmountable”, he said.
Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer said: “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.”
Topeka’s former Sumner School was all-white when Brown’s father, Oliver, tried to enroll the family. He became lead plaintiff in the 1954 Brown v Board of Education supreme court decision, that ended school segregation.
The landmark case began after several black families in Topeka, were turned down when they tried to enroll their children in white schools near their homes. It was brought before the supreme court by the legal arm of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and joined with cases from Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
On 17 May 1954, the supreme court ruled unanimously that separating black and white children was unconstitutional because it denied black children the 14th amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law.
“Linda Brown, who was one of the young students at the heart of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, passed away today at age 76,” said a statement from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). .
“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,” the LDF’s president Sherrilyn Ifill said.