Linda Brown, the student who helped end school segregation in the US, dies age 76

Jess Glass March 27, 2018
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(Photo: Library of Congress)

Linda Brown, the civil rights activist at the centre of the legal case which ended school segregation in the US, has died at the age of 76.

Her death was announced on Monday by her sister Cheryl Brown Henderson in a statement to The Topeka Capital-Journal.

In 1951, Brown was banned from attending a Kansas primary school for being African American, along with several other families in Kansas.

As an adult, Brown worked as a teacher and worked alongside her sister Cheryl for The Brown Foundation, a non-profit which helped minority students train as teachers.

Brown’s rejection from her school resulted in the famous 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education which ended up removing formal segregation in American schools in a unanimous 9-0 ruling.

A protest against desegregating schools (Photo: Creative Commons)

Handing down the unanimous ruling, the court said: “In the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.

“To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone.”

President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Sherrilyn Ifill praised Brown in a statement to TIME.

“She stands as an example of how ordinary schoolchildren took center stage in transforming this country,” Ifill said.

“It was not easy for her or her family, but her sacrifice broke barriers and changed the meaning of equality in this country.”

Kansas Govoner Jeff Colyer echoed this statement, praising Brown’s life and legacy for the changes she helped impliment.

He said: “Sixty-four years ago, a young girl from Topeka, Kansas sparked a case that ended segregation in public schools in America.

“Linda Brown’s life reminds us that by standing up for our principles and serving our communities we can truly change the world.

“Linda’s legacy is a crucial part of the American story and continues to inspire the millions who have realized the American dream because of her.”

Multiple celebrities took to social media to pay their respects to Brown, including CEO of Apple Tim Cook.

(Photo: @tim_cook / Twitter)

“Thank you to Linda Brown for what you stood up for and the imact it had on this nation. Rest in peace.” he wrote.

California Senator Kamala Harris echoed this, sending her condolences to Brown’s family.

(Photo: @KamalaHarris / Twitter)

The senator wrote: “Her courage at such a young age to stand up to segregated schools forever changed the fight for our civil rights.”

The Brown v. Board of Education ruling was one of the first major civil rights rulings from the US Supreme Court, which has since ruled on dozens of civil rights cases, including several LGBT issues.

In 2015, then-Vice President Joe Biden compared the Brown v. Board of Education case to the battle for same-sex marriage. 

Mr Biden said the judgement by the Supreme Court, due in June, on whether bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, is as important as that case.

More: US

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