Remembering Linda Brown: Student In Landmark Brown v. Board of Education Case Dies At 76

More than 60 years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled segregated schools were unconstitutional in a landmark decision reached in Brown v. The Board of Education.

The case began when Linda Brown, a third grade student in 1950, was denied the right to attend an all-white elementary school in Topeka, Kansas.

The 1954 decision said segregated schools violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause and paved the way for schools and other establishments across the nation to desegregate.

Brown passed away on Monday afternoon at the age of 76 in her home, just blocks away from the school she attended.

Per CBS News:

Born in 1943, Brown was in third grade in 1950 when she was denied admission to an all-white elementary school in her hometown of Topeka. She lived 20 blocks from her segregated school, but just five blocks from the all-white school. Kansas schools at the time were segregated by state law.

Brown’s father, Rev. Oliver Brown, sued the school district in 1951. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took up the case, which was combined with segregation suits against school districts in other states when it came before the Supreme Court. Future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall was the lead attorney for the NAACP.

In a unanimous ruling in 1954, the court declared school segregation an unconstitutional violation of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The ruling, written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine that had served as the basis for segregation of public facilities since the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson.

“Sixty-four years ago a young girl from Topeka brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America,” Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “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 as a towering figure in the fight for equality & equal treatment under the law,” Vice President Mike Pence tweeted on Tuesday. “Her role in challenging school segregation helped make our Nation a better place & her legacy will live on for decades. May she rest in peace.”

“Linda Brown was just a child at the time, but she forever changed the landscape of this country and stood as a giant in the fight for racial equality throughout her lifetime,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said. “Few have done more to make America a better place, and today we mourn her loss.”

HISTORY published more details on the monumental case in a 2014 report titled, “10 Things You Should Know About Brown v. Board of Education”:

1. Over one-third of states segregated their schools by law.

2. Brown v. Board of Education started off as five cases.

3. The lower court cases all ended in defeat.

4. The plaintiffs took great personal risks to be part of the case.

5. Thurgood Marshall argued the case for the plaintiffs.

6. The U.S. government largely backed Marshall’s position.6. The U.S. government largely backed Marshall’s position.

7. Brown v. Board of Education was a unanimous decision.

8. The case had a sequel.

9. The backlash to Brown v. Board of Education was widespread.

10. U.S. schools today remain widely segregated.

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