Linda Brown Outside Sumner Elementary

Linda Brown v. School Segregation

The woman, who at 9 years old became the face of school integration in the 1950s, has died.

Linda Brown was just 9 years old when her burdensome commute to school led to one of the most significant Supreme Court cases in U.S. history. Brown v. Board of Education, passed in 1954, ruled that state laws allowing separate schools for black and white students were unconstitutional. But Brown's fight didn't end in the '50s. She continued to advocate for equal rights through court proceedings and her foundation, The Brown Foundation, until she died on March 26, 2018 at 76 years old.

The Browns lived in a relatively diverse neighborhood in Topeka, Kansas, yet Linda had to trek across railroad tracks and take a bus to get to her school. She wasn&#39;t allowed to attend the school just four blocks from her home because she was black, and it was for white children only. Linda&#39;s mom <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/all/the-fight-their-lives-brown-v-board-60"target="_blank">later described</a> the neighborhood children&#39;s confusion about Linda&#39;s daily expedition: &quot;They came and asked me, &#39;Miss Brown, what&#39;s all of this? Why can&#39;t they let her go to school with us?&#39; <br><br>&quot;I tried to explain to them it was the color of her skin, that black people could not go to school with them over there, yet they could go,&quot; she added. &quot;I tried to explain that, because those very same children who came over to play with her, they ate my food, they slept in my bed with my kids and they played with them and they didn&#39;t see any difference. But then when school started, that&#39;s where the difference came in.&quot; Carl Iwasaki/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images The Browns lived in a relatively diverse neighborhood in Topeka, Kansas, yet Linda had to trek across railroad tracks and take a bus to get to her school. She wasn't allowed to attend the school just four blocks from her home because she was black, and it was for white children only. Linda's mom later described the neighborhood children's confusion about Linda's daily expedition: "They came and asked me, 'Miss Brown, what's all of this? Why can't they let her go to school with us?'

"I tried to explain to them it was the color of her skin, that black people could not go to school with them over there, yet they could go," she added. "I tried to explain that, because those very same children who came over to play with her, they ate my food, they slept in my bed with my kids and they played with them and they didn't see any difference. But then when school started, that's where the difference came in."
In 1950, Linda Brown&#39;s parents tried to enroll her and her sister in the all-white elementary school in their neighborhood, knowing they would be turned away. It was part of an organized attempt by 13 local families, in coordination with the NAACP, to initiate a lawsuit that would do away with segregated schooling once and for all. Carl Iwasaki/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images In 1950, Linda Brown's parents tried to enroll her and her sister in the all-white elementary school in their neighborhood, knowing they would be turned away. It was part of an organized attempt by 13 local families, in coordination with the NAACP, to initiate a lawsuit that would do away with segregated schooling once and for all. That case became known as Brown v. Board of Education, and it went all the way to the Supreme Court. Carl Iwasaki/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images That case became known as Brown v. Board of Education, and it went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1954, Linda Brown, her fellow plaintiffs, and the NAACP won. The &quot;separate but equal&quot; ruling that had been the law of the land since 1896, protecting segregated facilities across the country for nearly 60 years, was forcefully overturned. In a unanimous vote, the court ruled that &quot;separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,&quot; and a violation of the 14th Amendment&#39;s Equal Protection clause. Pictured: Linda Brown (bottom row, third from left) and some of the other students and parents who filed suit in Brown v. Board of Education. Carl Iwasaki/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images In 1954, Linda Brown, her fellow plaintiffs, and the NAACP won. The "separate but equal" ruling that had been the law of the land since 1896, protecting segregated facilities across the country for nearly 60 years, was forcefully overturned. In a unanimous vote, the court ruled that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," and a violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause. Pictured: Linda Brown (bottom row, third from left) and some of the other students and parents who filed suit in Brown v. Board of Education. The lead attorney on their case was Thurgood Marshall (center), who in 1967 would become a Supreme Court Justice himself. Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images The lead attorney on their case was Thurgood Marshall (center), who in 1967 would become a Supreme Court Justice himself. &quot;I really think of [the ruling] in terms of what it has done for our young people, in taking away that feeling of second class citizenship,&quot; Linda Brown said in <a href="http://digital.wustl.edu/e/eop/eopweb/smi0015.0647.098lindabrownsmith.html"target="_blank">a 1985 interview</a>. &quot;I think it has made the dreams, hopes and aspirations of our young people greater, today.&quot; Carl Iwasaki/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images "I really think of [the ruling] in terms of what it has done for our young people, in taking away that feeling of second class citizenship," Linda Brown said in a 1985 interview. "I think it has made the dreams, hopes and aspirations of our young people greater, today." Linda had already entered the integrated upper schools by the time the case was decided in 1954, but her younger sisters&#39; elementary schools would be integrated thanks to the ruling. Carl Iwasaki/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images Linda had already entered the integrated upper schools by the time the case was decided in 1954, but her younger sisters' elementary schools would be integrated thanks to the ruling. The Brown decision - and the sustained efforts of Civil Rights activists in the years following it - ultimately led to the legal desegregation of other public places, like lunch counters and hotels. Carl Iwasaki/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images The Brown decision - and the sustained efforts of Civil Rights activists in the years following it - ultimately led to the legal desegregation of other public places, like lunch counters and hotels. However, the public education system has yet to realize the full promise of the Brown decision. (Brown is pictured here in 1984.) While racial segregation is now illegal, neighborhood segregation and unequal school funding have made integrating schools a <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/2018/03/30/school-segregation-america-today-bad-1960-855256.html"target="_blank">persistent challenge</a>. New York Times Co./Getty Images However, the public education system has yet to realize the full promise of the Brown decision. (Brown is pictured here in 1984.) While racial segregation is now illegal, neighborhood segregation and unequal school funding have made integrating schools a persistent challenge.