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Sisters of Brown v. Board of Education Said Their Mission Remains Unfulfilled

Alissa Zhu

Linda Brown Thompson and Cheryl Brown Henderson, the namesakes of the groundbreaking Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, gave a presentation at Central High School Thursday night about civil rights and education to a crowd of about 500 people. KSMU’s Alissa Zhu has the story.

Linda Brown Thompson remembers crying on the way to school when she was seven-years-old. The seven-block walk to a bus stop was too cold for the third-grader during the bitter Kansas winter. A bus would then transport her two miles to the closest black elementary school in Topeka. There was an elementary school just four blocks from home, but it was for white children only.

Linda’s father, Oliver Brown, was contacted by the NAACP to become a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit that ultimately led to the landmark Supreme Court case that deemed separate schools for white and black students to be unconstitutional.

“Little did he know, that years ago, when he stepped off the witness stand, he stepped into the pages of history. I didn’t understand what was happening then but it was clear that Brown v. Board of Education was a necessary victory. It might have appeared to be only a little spark but it served to set off a mighty flame,” said Thompson.

Five years after the ruling, the Brown family moved to Springfield, where Oliver Brown became the pastor of Benton Avenue AME Church, and Linda became part of Central High School’s class of 1961.

Brown v. Board of Education was not simply about children and education. It was about seeking equality for all. De-facto segregation of urban schools and the building of low-income housing in majority black neighborhoods are evidence that the court’s ruling in Brown’s case remains unfulfilled, Thompson said.

This year is the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education as well as the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Cheryl Brown Henderson said they are using these anniversaries to revisit important messages from the civil rights era. She said we must never forget to fight for what’s right.

The Brown sisters’ presentation was the keynote event of a display called “Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963,” which will be up through August 22 at the Library Center.