March 26 (UPI) -- Linda Brown, the student at the center of the Brown v. Board of Education civil rights case that helped desegregate public schools in the United States, has died. She was 76.
"Linda Brown is one of that special band of heroic young people who, along with her family, courageously fought to end the ultimate symbol of white supremacy -- racial segregation in public schools," Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said in a statement. "She stands as an example of how ordinary schoolchildren took center stage in transforming this country."
Linda was 8 years old when her father, Oliver Brown, attempted to enroll her in a whites-only public school near their home in Topeka, Kan. But the school denied her entry and said she had to go to a blacks-only school farther away.
Oliver Brown responded by filing a lawsuit against the state, which was then joined with similar lawsuits in several other states before the case appeared before the Supreme Court as the landmark Brown v. Board of Education.
In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in the plaintiffs' favor, saying segregation is "a denial of equal protection of the laws."
Linda Brown later attended Washburn and Kansas State universities and worked as an education consultant and public speaker while continuing to speak out against racial inequality.
"Sixty-four years ago a young girl from Topeka brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America," Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer said Monday. "Linda Brown's life reminds us that sometimes the most unlikely people can have an incredible impact and that by serving our community we can truly change the world."