Some called Esther Brown a “20th century Joan of Arc” because of her efforts to end segregation in Kansas schools.
She was a Kansas City housewife who became a champion of civil rights causes not only in Kansas but throughout the nation.
She became actively involved in the civil rights movement after becoming friends with her housekeeper, Helen Swan. Brown was most concerned about the conditions of a local African-
American school and upset that a school bond issue that taxed the entire community excluded African-American children from attending. Black children attended Walker School, a building with only two teachers and no indoor plumbing.
For nearly three decades, Brown helped fund, raise money for and clothe African-American students whose families could not afford to pay for their education.
She also helped fuel membership in local NAACP chapters and persuaded Oliver Brown of Topeka to be the lead plaintiff in the famous Brown v. Board of Education court case.
Esther Brown testified before the Kansas Legislature about discrimination in the workplace. She also organized and became the national coordinator of the Panel of American Women, an organization that encouraged women of different religions and races to speak out against prejudice.
She helped organize a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which helped African-American parents organize a lawsuit. The case was known as Webb v. Kansas, and one of the prosecutors was Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first black Supreme Court Justice. He would also work on Brown v. Board of Education.
During the process, she was threatened. A cross was burned on her yard and her husband was fired from his job. Then, she had a miscarriage, writes Richard Thomas in his book, "Understanding Interracial Unity: A Study of U.S. Race Relations."
Still, Brown refused to stop.
"She went on a one-woman crusade," Thomas writes.
Brown then took her cause statewide, helping fuel membership in NAACP chapters in Wichita and Topeka. Question: Brown’s efforts had what effect at Shawnee Mission North?
Answer to Saturday’s question: Wichita State University’s WuShock.
Check Kansas.com on Monday for the answer to today’s question.