Linda Brown is not as famous as, say, Rosa Parks. Yet she is a civil rights pioneer, too. As a 9-year-old third-grader in Topeka, Kansas, in 1950, Linda wasn’t allowed to attend the Sumner School a few blocks from her home, along with Mona and Guinevere and her other friends living in their integrated neighborhood.
Rather, she had to walk half a mile and catch a bus to the all-black Monroe School, two miles away.
Her father, Oliver Brown, joined a group of 13 black parents suing the school board in February 1951— the famous case is named after him because he was the sole male defendant, so his name was listed first. The case became Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court ruling whose 60th anniversary was Saturday.
The case ended the “separate but equal” legal fiction used to justify segregation of black students from white.
“To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race,’’ the Court declared, “generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”
Prophetic words, particularly since the system of segregation wasn’t undone. Now instead of being enforced by law, it’s maintained by economics and geography.