Updated at 10:44 am ET
Linda Brown, a student at the heart of the famous US Supreme Court case, who opposed racial segregation in American schools, died Sunday afternoon in Topeka, Kan.
Her sister, Cheryl Brown Henderson, confirmed the death of The Topeka Capital Journal . The newspaper says Brown was 75, but some sources said she was 76.
The case of the Supreme Court of 1954 Brown v. Chr. The Board of Education involved several families who tried to break down decades of federal education laws that tolerated separate schools for black and white students. But it all started with Brown's father, Oliver, who was trying to enroll her at Sumner School, a very white elementary school in Topeka, just blocks from the Browns' home.
The school board prohibited the child from enrolling, and Brown, an assistant pastor at the St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church, was furious that his daughter had to drive miles to school. He worked with the NAACP and a dozen other plaintiffs to file a lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education.
Until 1952, the US Supreme Court had similar cases from Delaware, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and Virginia. They all questioned the constitutionality of racial segregation in public schools.
Two years later, the court ruled unanimously to crush the doctrine of "separate but equal." The judges agreed that they denied 14th amendment guarantees of the same legal protection.
"I just could not understand it," said Brown NPR, 19 years after the milestone decision.
"We lived in a mixed neighborhood, but when school was coming, I had to take the school bus and drive through town, and the white kids I played with would go to that other school," she said.
"My parents tried to explain that to me, but I was too young to understand."
In the same interview, Brown's mother, Leola Brown, said that she and her husband did their best to help her daughter understand why she was not allowed to go to school. She just explained it, "It was because her face was black … and she could not go to school with the white races back then."
She said, "Her dad told her I wanted to do his best to do something about it and see that it was done."
Brown remembered the day her dad remembered her Sumner School by the hand led: "I remember talking to the headmaster. I remember our brisk way home and how I could feel the tension in him."
When they got home, she said "Her parents discussed what had happened" and I knew that there was something terribly wrong, "Brown said.
When the Supreme Court made its decision, Brown was in junior high school and it was her mother who gave her the good news. "She was very happy," her mother said.
Brown never had a chance to attend Sumner. The family had moved out of the neighborhood during the long process. But her mother said her younger daughters attended integrated schools, and one of them went on to become a teacher in the Topeka school district.
Even after the decision of the Supreme Court, the separation in public schools continued for years. When, in 1957, nine black students were enrolled in a pure white high school in Little Rock, Ark, they had to be taken to the campus by federal guards.
The Topeka Capital journals reported:
"In 1979, Linda Brown, now with her own children in Topeka Schools, was plaintiff in a revived version of Brown, who still bore the same title." Topeka Capital-Journal According to archives, the plaintiffs sued the school district for failing to enforce segregation.
"Federal Judge Richard Rogers agreed with the school district in 1987, but an appeals court overturned its ruling in 1989 and the Supreme Court ruled not to check this decision. Rogers then approved a desegregation plan for the Topeka Unified School District 501 in 1993.
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer noticed Brown's death Monday. "Linda Brown's life reminds us that sometimes the most unlikely people can have an incredible impact, and by serving our community, we can truly change the world."
Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, noted In a statement: "Linda Brown is one of those special bands of heroic young people who, together with their family, courageously fought to end the ultimate symbol of white supremacy – segregation in public schools In the end, Brown became an educational advisor and speaker.
When asked about her role in the historical case, she told NPR that it was her dad, "I am very proud that this has happened to me and my family, and I think it has helped minorities everywhere."
As the mother of two children who had been racially visiting various schools, she said: By going to an integrated school, they are progressing much faster than the age they are now. … and I think that children nowadays interact much better because of integration. "