Linda Brown, the woman at the center of the historic Brown v. Board Of Education case, passed away Sunday afternoon (Mar. 25) at the age of 76. Brown was reportedly surrounded by family when she died, CNN reports.
Brown made her way into history books after being denied admission to an all-white elementary school, which was in closer proximity to her home in Topeka than the segregated school she was forced to go to instead. In 1951, her father, Rev. Oliver Brown, sued the school district, and the case was taken up by the NAACP. Future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall was the lead attorney for the NAACP, and the suit was combined with similar cases before it was taken to the Supreme Court.
The 1954 court ruling signaled a shift. The segregation of the U.S. educational system ended, after the ruling determined that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
“[My father] felt that it was wrong for black people to have to accept second-class citizenship, and that meant being segregated in their schools, when in fact, there were schools right in their neighborhoods that they could attend, and they had to go clear across town to attend an all-black school,” said Brown in a 1985 interview. “And this is one of the reasons that he became involved in this suit, because he felt that it was wrong for his child to have to go so far a distance to receive a quality education.”
“God has a way of taking the ordinary people in sub-ordinary positions, exalting them to extraordinary heights and then they become the frame of reference,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson in 2004 during a visit to Topeka for the ruling’s 50th anniversary. “So Topeka is on the map not because of the richest family in Topeka – nobody knows who that is nor does anybody care. Linda Brown’s name, and her father’s name, will live eternally.”