Linda Brown, woman at center of Brown v. Board case, dies

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 3/27/2018, 7:33 a.m.
Linda Brown, who as a little girl was at the center of the Brown v. Board of Education case that ...
Full credit: Carl Wasaki/Life Images Collection/Getty Images Linda Brown outside Sumner Elementary School in Topkea, Kansas, in 1953.

"Sixty-four years ago a young girl from Topeka brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America. 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."

'I began to cry because it was so cold'

Brown was born in 1943, according to the National Archives. When her father joined the lawsuit, neighborhoods in Topeka were partially integrated, Brown said in a 1985 interview for the documentary series "Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years."

"I played with children that were Spanish-American. I played with children that were white, children that were Indian, and black children in my neighborhood," she said.

High schools and junior high schools were integrated, too, she said. The only schools that were not were elementary schools, including hers, Monroe Elementary School, she said.

In 1954, there were four African-American schools and 18 white schools in Topeka.

To reach the bus that carried her and her sisters 2 miles across town to the all-black school, she said she had to walk through railroad yards and across a busy avenue.

"I remember the walk as being very long at that time," she said in 1985. "And then when wintertime came, it was a very cold walk. I remember that. I remember walking, tears freezing up on my face, because I began to cry because it was so cold, and many times I had to turn around and run back home."

In 1950 her father, a welder and an associate pastor, joined the Topeka NAACP's legal challenge to a Kansas law that permitted racially segregated elementary schools in certain cities based on population. He attempted to enroll her in Sumner Elementary School in 1951.

"My father was like a lot of other black parents here in Topeka at that time. They were concerned not about the quality of education that their children were receiving, they were concerned about the amount -- or distance, that the child had to go to receive an education," Brown said in the 1985 interview.

"He 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. 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."

Monroe and Sumner elementary schools became National Historic Landmarks on May 4, 1987, according to the National Park Service. President George H.W. Bush signed the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site Act of 1992 on October 26, 1992, which established Monroe as a national park.