Linda Brown, the Topeka, Kansas, student at the center of the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, died yesterday (Mar. 26) at the age of 75. The 1954 decision against the Board of Education of Topeka declared segregation on the basis of race in US public schools unconstitutional.
But while her victory was one of the most important legal milestones of the civil rights movement, it did not automatically integrate schools across the US. Years after the court case, school districts across the country fought the ruling, most notably in the 1957 case of the Little Rock Nine, who needed to be escorted into their high school by US Army troops following hostile protests and a National Guard blockade.
But elsewhere, news photos from the era documented the relative newness of an integrated school, something that may be taken for granted today.
The 1950s were by no means the end of the fight for school integration, or the resistance to it. Programs like Boston public schools use of bussing, moving children to different schools to achieve an equal racial balance, led to another wave of white backlash in the 1970s. Violent protests erupted, with protestors hurling bricks at school buses and shouting racial slurs.
Today, through the forces of economic and racial isolation, schools still remain highly stratified. Nikole Hannah-Jones, writing in the New York Times Magazine, noted that in New York City a wide majority of black and latino students (85% and 75%, respectively) are attending schools with a less than 10% white student body.