A Tribute to Linda Brown
When social activists pass, we often reflect on their lives, their contributions and the legacy in their wake. Linda Brown became the face of the momentous case of Brown vs Board of Education that launched the desegregation of schools across America. While we honor their tremendous impact, we should not overlook the great sacrifices they make for these changes.
Linda Brown grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Topeka, KS, four blocks from the all-white school. Linda and other black children were bused to the all-black schools in another neighborhood per Jim Crow Laws. “Separate but equal” was the law but in many states many all-black schools were documented to be under funded, poorly maintained and have undereducated teachers. Topeka was not one of those cities. There were reports that the three all-black schools were maintained just as well as the all-white schools and many of the teachers had master’s degrees. Education extended beyond the basic curriculum and included character development, cultural education specifically encouraging self-identity and pride. Linda Brown was quoted saying “I loved it! I loved it! The teachers were fantastic. More like an extended family, like mothers… ‘cause they took an interest in you.”
In 1950, nine-year old Linda and her father, Oliver Brown, walked those four blocks to the all-white school for summer school enrollment and was quickly denied. The attempt to enroll was part of the larger plan by the local NAACP chapter to join 200 other plaintiffs in challenging the segregation of schools on a national level. Twelve other black Topeka families attempted enrollment, got declined and filed suit. While the suit took four years to be ruled in favor of the plaintiffs – consider the changes that had to take place for the greater good of the nation’s black communities. The black community was not in full support of the desegregation movement and challenged the implementation due to the healthy environment the all-black schools created for black children. But desegregation was bigger than Topeka’s school systems. The Browns, their co-plaintiffs and the local NAACP knew this.
After the ruling and gradual implementation of desegregation, Linda Brown and her family continued to push for justice. In 1979, Linda Brown, with the assistance of the ACLU reopened Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka as local schools continued to be segregated. Fourteen years later, a Topeka judge finally ruled in favor of Brown and bus routes were redrawn to full desegregate schools and accomplish what was set into action nearly 40 years prior. Linda Brown’ legacy not only lies in the original Brown vs Board case but for nearly 40 years of continuous fighting, perseverance and a great deal of sacrifice she made to end the inherently unjust practice of “separate but equal” laws and push this country in a direction of equality.