Linda Brown, the Kansas girl who sparked the end of racial segregation in schools, dies at 76.

Linda Brown, the Kansas schoolgirl whose case brought an end to racial segregation in US public schools in 1954, her family has announced.Brown's name is forever closely intertwined with the struggle of African-Americans against prejudice and inequality, her case a crucial stepping stone on the path to civil rights.
Linda Brown, whose childhood battle against segregated schools changed American history, has died at the age of 76.The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), which brought the landmark case against the US government, hailed Brown and her family's contribution to what it called "the most important, transformational Supreme Court decision of the 20th century."But who was she and how could a child bring about such drastic social change in America?
Linda Carol Brown born in 1943 was just nine years old when her father Oliver, an assistant pastor at the St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church, attempted to enrol her in the all-white Sumner Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas.His appeal was snubbed on racial grounds despite the family living mere streets away and he returned home bristling with anger.The nearest black school, Monroe, was two miles away and would have required his young daughter to cross dangerous railroad yards alone to catch a bus.Enraged at the injustice, Oliver Brown became the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education, which brought together 13 families to take on the segregating principle of "separate but equal" then defining access to public facilities for white and black citizens.Although the case was initially struck down at a local level, Brown took Linda's fight to the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) who mounted a national legal challenge on behalf of families from several states, including Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The US Supreme Court subsequently ruled unanimously in favour of Brown v Board of Education on 17 May 1954, a decision that found the federal division of black and white students unconstitutional in that it denied black children their 14 Amendment right to equal legal protection.The finding that black schools had a "detrimental effect" on young students due to their inferior resources overturned 1896 Plessy v Ferguson, the decision that first legally sanctioned the concept of racially segregated amenities.Despite the victory, the change was not implemented immediately and desegregation did encounter public resistance in some areas, notably in Little Rock, Arkansas, where black students had to be escorted onto campus by federal guards in 1957.Thurgood Marshall, who had spearheaded the NAACP case, went on to become the first black Supreme Court justice in 1967.
"I just couldn't understand," Ms Brown told National Public Radio in 1973, reflecting on the defining events of her life."We lived in a mixed neighbourhood but when school time came I would have to take the school bus and go clear across town and the white children I played with would go to this other school."My parents tried to explain this to me but I was too young at that time to understand."Interviewed in 1985 for the book Eyes on the Prize by Juan Williams, Linda said of her late father:
"[He] was like a lot of other black parents here in Topeka at that time. They were concerned not about the quality of education that their children were receiving, they were concerned about the amount of distance, that the child had to go to receive an education.My father believed very much in right and he felt that it was wrong for black people to have to accept second-class citizenship and that meant being segregated in their schools, when in fact, there were schools right in their neighbourhoods that they could attend and they had to go clear across town to attend an all-black school.And this is one of the reasons that he became involved in this suit because he felt that it was wrong for his child to have to go so far a distance to receive a quality education."
Linda devoted the rest of her life to social justice through her work with the Brown Foundation, having two children of her own who were able to attend racially diverse schools thanks to their grandfather's legacy."By them going to an integrated school, they are advancing much more rapidly than I was at the age that they are now... And I think that children are relating to one another much better these days because of integration," she told NPR.
She stands as an example of how ordinary schoolchildren took centre stage in transforming this country," said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of NAACP's Legal Defence and Educational Fund.It was not easy for her or her family, but her sacrifice broke barriers and changed the meaning of equality in this country.Tributes have flooded in since news of her death broke overnight. Both NAACP and film director Ava DuVernay used the word "hero" to describe her contribution.
The governor of Kansas, Jeff Colyer, paid tribute to the family.Sixty-four years ago, a young girl from Topeka, Kansas sparked a case that ended segregation in public schools in America," he said.Linda Brown's life reminds us that by standing up for our principles and serving our communities we can truly change the world.Linda's legacy is a crucial part of the American story and continues to inspire the millions who have realized the American dream because of her.