Linda Brown, the little girl at the center of the Brown vs. Board of Education court decision that ultimately struck down segregation died Sunday.
Brown walked past the all-white school in her neighborhood, Sumner Elementary School, every day on her way to her all-black Monroe School two miles away. Her father, Oliver Brown found this unjust and tried to enroll her at Sumner in 1951. Brown was denied and ultimately joined other plaintiffs in the NAACP’s lawsuit that was named Brown v. Board of Education.
“It was really the first inkling people had about what segregation did to humiliate and degrade people,” Mark McCormick, executive director at the Kansas African American Museum said Monday.
McCormick credits the importance of the case for bringing Michelle Obama to Topeka in 2014. Obama was America’s first lady at the time and came for the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. BOE decision celebration. McCormick’s young son tagged along with him for the symposium and posed with the Brown family, including Linda, for a photo.
“And while he maybe couldn’t appreciate it and I couldn’t appreciate it in that moment, he’s gonna have that picture forever, I mean she’s an icon of the movement,” McCormick said.
Brown and family are credited with contributing to the striking down ofschool segregation but that wasn’t the end of the road. McCormick reports, Wichita Public Schools fought the decision for 18 years before desegregating.
Brown v. BOE is considered one of the five most important legal decisions in American history. It struck down the 1896 decision, Plessy v. Ferguson. But McCormick maintains, the struggle is not over.
“We’ve re-segregated schools in most places,” McCormick said.
“I’d just like to offer my condolences to the Brown family, and to thank you for the trail you blazed,” McCormick said.