In 1950, Topeka, Kan. resident Oliver Brown tried to enroll his daughter in an all-white school. She was denied, but that paved the way to the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v Board of Education of Topeka.
"[Brown] didn't understand why he had to walk his little daughter by a school to get a to another school to get an education," says Denny Whayne, who knew the Brown family.
Brown lent his name to what became the landmark civil rights. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled separate but equal wasn't equal.
"They didn't have the types of facilities and the types of equipment and books and things," says Wes Pratt, Coordinator of Diversity Outreach and Recruitment at Missouri State University.
Shortly after, Springfield schools were integrated. The city's black high school, Lincoln, had its last graduating class in 1955.
"So the, if the seniors wanted to graduate from Lincoln, they could, then they closed it," says Whayne.
Four years later, Oliver Brown become pastor of a Springfield's Benton Ave. AME Church. His girls entered the Springfield School system.
"Easy to get along with. They didn't try to act better than anybody. They didn't try to put the bourgeois on us because they were involved in the case," says Whayne, who graduated from Central High School in 1963.
Linda Brown graduated from Central in 1961. Her father died in 1961... a month after seeing his daughter graduate from an integrated school.
Brown benefited from the same education as Springfield's white students, and with it, walked into the history books Springfield students now study.
"I think it shows a lot about the school and how it's progressed historically," says Taylor Fairbank, Central High School senior.
"The fact that Linda Brown went here, just shows that Central's diverse background has some support, and we've always been a diverse school," says senior Delanie Cooper.
Central's a school that's proud of its diversity.
"I don't see people in races. I just see them as potential bus friends. I know that sounds really cheesy," laughs Cooper.
And it's proud of its history.
"It's about the history. She was part of history, involved in Central High School. Her family was one of the many families that made it happen, that fought, that fight the good fight, in order to see that everybody was treated equally," says Whayne.
Linda Brown-Thompson now lives back in Topeka, Kan. She declined to be interviewed for this story.
She now tours the country, giving lectures on the case, emphasizing that her family was just one of thirteen involved.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Linda Brown graduated from Springfield, Missouri high school
Television station KSPR in Springfield ran a story Thursday about civil rights pioneer Linda Brown of the Brown v. Board of Education case, talking about her graduation from an integrated Springfield, Missouri, high school: