Local Obituaries

Kansas girl at center of 1954 school segregation ruling dies

FILE -- Linda Brown at an event in Topeka, Kansas, on May 16, 2004, marking the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Brown, whose father objected when she was not allowed to attend an all-white school in her neighborhood and who thus came to symbolize one of the most transformative court proceedings in American history, the school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, died on March 25, 2018, in Topeka.
FILE -- Linda Brown at an event in Topeka, Kansas, on May 16, 2004, marking the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Brown, whose father objected when she was not allowed to attend an all-white school in her neighborhood and who thus came to symbolize one of the most transformative court proceedings in American history, the school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, died on March 25, 2018, in Topeka. NYT

Linda 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.

Topeka’s former Sumner School was all-white when her father, Oliver, tried to enroll the family. He became lead plaintiff in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court that ended school segregation.

Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel of Topeka confirmed that Linda Brown died Sunday afternoon. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Her sister, Cheryl Brown Henderson, founding president of The Brown Foundation, confirmed the death to The Topeka Capital-Journal. She declined comment from the family.

“Her legacy is not only here but nationwide,” Kansas Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said. “The effect she had on our society would be unbelievable and insurmountable.”

The landmark case was brought before the Supreme Court by the NAACP’s legal arm to challenge segregation in public schools. It began after several black families in Topeka were turned down when they tried to enroll their children in white schools near their homes. The lawsuit was joined with cases from Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

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. “In the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal' has no place,” Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote. “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

“We are to be grateful for the family that stood up for what is right,” said Democratic state Rep. Annie Kuether of Topeka. “That made a difference to the rest of the world.”

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