60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

By Linda Ong | long@kolr10.com

Published 05/17 2014 10:23PM

Updated 05/18 2014 09:44AM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Sixty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in schools.

"Nine jurists came together, led by one of my idols, Chief Justice Earl Warren, the eyes of the world upon them, to unanimously declare that separate was inherently unequal," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The landmark case Brown v. Board of Education ruled that racial segregation of children in public schools violated the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

The ruling marked a major victory for equal justice under the law. Thirteen families and their 20 children from across the country came together in the class-action lawsuit. The lead plaintiff in the case was Rev. Oliver L. Brown who represented his daughter, Linda Brown.

"It was a landmark case because this was the first time that the government said separate but equal does not work," said Gay Wilson, Planning and Development Librarian at The Library Center.

Linda was seven years old when her father and 12 other members of the NAACP filed suit against the Topeka School Board. According to the Springfield Leader and Press, the district refused to enroll Linda in her neighborhood school, which was all-white. Years after the case's ruling, the family moved.

"They were living in Topeka, Kansas, and he got a call to be the pastor of the Betton Avenue AME Church," said Wilson. "So they moved to Springfienld in 1959 and the girls went to school here in Springfield."

According to a the 1960 Central High School yearbook, Linda was part of the school's Glee Club and graduated in 1961. The Brown family lived in Springfield for a total of two years.

Wilson said the landmark case led the way for future movements.

"Because of this, I believe that years later, it paved the road for the civil rights movement, voting rights, and rights for women," she said.

Sixty years later, and Wilson said there's still room for more progress in society, but believes change stems from within communities.

"What I really hope is that people are aware that they can change America, that they can be a part of this," said Wilson. "It can start in our community and we can make these changes. "

The Brown family moved back to Topeka after Rev. Brown died two years after moving to Springfield.

On July 31st, Linda Brown Thompson and her sister Cheryl Brown Henderson will be visiting Springfield at Central High School to speak about the historic case and how it changed America.

Their visit is part of a six-week exhibit on the Emancipation Proclamation at The Library Center that will begin on July 12th.

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