Linda Brown Thompson, who as a young girl was the student at the center of the landmark Supreme Court casethat declared school segregation unconstitutional, has died in Topeka, Kansas. She was 76.
The Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel in Topeka confirmed it is handling funeral arrangements for Brown.
Born in 1943, Brown was in third grade in 1950 when she was denied admission to an all-white elementary school in her hometown of Topeka. She lived 20 blocks from her segregated school, but just five blocks from the all-white school. Kansas schools at the time were segregated by state law.
Brown’s father, Rev. Oliver Brown, sued the school district in 1951. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took up the case, which was combined with segregation suits against school districts in other states when it came before the Supreme Court. Future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall was the lead attorney for the NAACP.
In a unanimous ruling in 1954, the court declared school segregation an unconstitutional violation of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The ruling, written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine that had served as the basis for segregation of public facilities since the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson.
“Sixty-four years ago a young girl from Topeka brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America,” Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “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.”
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