Linda Brown, the young girl at the center of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case, passed away on Monday at the age of 76.
Brown’s sister, Cheryl Brown Henderson, confirmed the death to the Topeka-Capital Journal. Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel of Topeka independently confirmed Brown’s passing with HuffPost.
It was Brown’s father, Rev. Oliver Brown, who sued the Topeka school board to allow his daughter the right to attend an all-white school in the Kansas capital city. Four additional cases ultimately went before the Supreme Court, but the decisive trial was consolidated and named for Brown’s appeal.
Brown, who was also known as Linda Carol Thompson after her marriage in the mid ’90s, was forced to attend an all-black school far away from her home despite there being an all-white school only blocks away.
Supreme Court landmark cases
Supreme Court landmark cases
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African American students at a segregated school following the supreme court case Plessy vs Ferguson established Separate But Equal, 1896. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
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Brown told MSNBC in 2014 that she remembered the embarrassment of being separated from her neighborhood friends and the long walk to the bus stop.
“I remember a couple of times turning around and going back home because I — you know, it was a small town,” she said. “I got really, really cold and would get home and be crying. And mother would, you know, she would try to warm me up and tell me it would be all right and everything.”
The court case was one of the biggest legal victories of the civil rights era, as the Supreme Court overturned the 1896 “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson. It was due to Brown v. the Board of Education that the federal government could force states to integrate schools, allowing children of color an equal education to white children.
“Sixty-four years ago a young girl from Topeka brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America,” Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer tweeted Monday. “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.”