Linda Brown was only 9 when her father took her by the hand and they walked together to the local elementary school in their hometown of Topeka. Oscar Brown knew the principal would turn his child away; Sumner, only four blocks from the Browns’ home, was for white students only—the same kids Linda played with in their integrated neighborhood. But the time for waiting patiently for things to change was over.
It was time for action and the Browns were willing to take it.
What happened that day in 1952 set in motion the chain of events that led to the U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education. Ultimately, the justices ruled unanimously in 1954 that the “separate but equal” doctrine was unconstitutional.
Children can help to change the world.
Linda Brown died this week at age 76. Friends and family members say she was, by nature, a quiet person. Being in the spotlight was tough for her. But she frequently spoke out because she knew the case was a crucial turning point in American history. She did not want anyone to forget its significance.
In a 1985 interview, she said: “I feel that after 30 years, looking back on Brown vs. the Board of Education, it has made an impact in all facets of life for minorities throughout the land. I really think of it in terms of what it has done for our young people, in taking away that feeling of second-class citizenship.”
To read much more about Brown v. Board of Education, its legacy, and the ongoing struggle to ensure that all students—regardless of where they live—have the educational opportunities they deserve, check out this multimedia presentation on NEAToday.org.
Across the nation, student activists are rising up and speaking out for school safety and commonsense gun laws. These activists remind us that students of all ages are often the ones pushing for societal change. Whether or not they know Linda Brown’s name (and they should), they benefit from her legacy. Like her, they will move mountains.