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Linda Brown Smith Has Died at 76

The child at the center of Brown vs. Board of Education has died.

I remember the day that we walked over to Sumner School, the all-white school, four blocks from our home. My father took me by the hand, and we walked briskly over to the school. I remember going inside the building. Being a small child, the steps seemed large, the building seemed large. We walked inside. My father asked me to stay outside in the foyer and sit. He went inside with the principal, and they talked, and as they talked, I remember their voices growing louder and louder, and I knew something was wrong. Uh, after a while my father came out, he took me by the hand, and we began to walk home. And as we walked home, I could feel tension within his body being transmitted to my hand. And I looked up at him, and I knew something was wrong. When we got home, he tried to explain to me that they turned me down, and I would not be able to go to the school that my playmates went to, because of the color of my skin, but being a young child, I didn't comprehend color of skin. I only knew that I wanted to go to Sumner School. -Linda Brown Smith

Linda's father, Oliver Brown, concerned with the quality of education his daughter was receiving in Topeka, Kansas, was determined to change a system that discriminated against his child for the color of her skin. Because of his dedication, she became the first child to sign on to the lawsuit against the Kansas Board of Education that ultimately won the federal mandate to desegregate schools in 1954.

The younger Brown joined a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union in 1979 arguing that desegregation hadn't been achieved. While racially segregated schools persist, Brown v. Board of Education became the benchmark for how our school system should be and the legal tool we can use to get there.

I feel that after thirty years, looking back on Brown v. 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. I think it has made the dreams, hopes and aspirations of our young people greater, today. -Linda Brown Smith

Reading the quote about her father made me tear up. Here's to parental love and determination.

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