Subscribe to Breaking News emails

You have successfully subscribed to the Breaking News email.

Subscribe today to be the first to to know about breaking news and special reports.

Linda Brown, student in 1954 ruling ending school segregation, dies

Brown, the Kansas girl at the center of the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that struck down racial segregation in schools, has died at age 76.

by Associated Press /  / Updated 
Linda Brown, one of the plaintiffs in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, in an undated photo.AP

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

TOPEKA, Kan. — Linda Brown, the Kansas girl at the center of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down racial segregation in schools, has died at age 76.

Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel of Topeka confirmed that Brown died Sunday afternoon. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Topeka's former Sumner School was all-white when her father, Oliver, tried to enroll the family. He became lead plaintiff in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court that ended school segregation.

 Linda Brown, 9, in a 1952 photo. AP

Her sister, Cheryl Brown Henderson, founding president of the Brown Foundation, confirmed the death to the Topeka Capital-Journal. She declined to provide comment from the family.

"Her legacy is not only here but nationwide," Kansas Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said. "The effect she had on our society would be unbelievable and insurmountable."

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement that Linda Brown was one of a band of heroic young people who, along with her family, courageously fought to end the ultimate symbol of white supremacy — racial segregation in public schools.

"She stands as an example of how ordinary schoolchildren took center stage in transforming this country. It was not easy for her or her family, but her sacrifice broke barriers and changed the meaning of equality in this country," Ifill said.

Related: NYC Proposal Sheds Light on Nation's School Segregation Issue

The landmark case was brought before the Supreme Court by the NAACP's legal arm to challenge segregation in public schools. It began after several black families in Topeka were turned down when they tried to enroll their children in white schools near their homes. The lawsuit was joined with cases from Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

 Linda Brown Smith, a plaintiff in the case that resulted in the 1954 landmark ruling in favor of school desegregation, and Benjamin L. Hooks, executive director of the NAACP, on the steps of the South Carolina State House during ceremonies observing the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling on May 17, 1979, in Columbus. AP

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that separating black and white children was unconstitutional because it denied black children the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law. "In the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place," Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote. "Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

"We are to be grateful for the family that stood up for what is right," said Democratic state Rep. Annie Kuether of Topeka. "That made a difference to the rest of the world."

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
MORE FROM news

Have feedback?

How likely are you to recommend nbcnews.com to a friend or colleague?

0 = Very unlikely
10 = Very likely
Please select answer

Is your feedback about:

Please select answer

Leave your email if you’d like us to respond. (Optional)

Please enter a valid email address

Thank you!

Your feedback has been sent out. Please enjoy more of our content.

We appreciate your help making nbcnews.com a better place.