America in the 1950s and 1960s featured a lot of important history, but perhaps paramount to it all was the civil rights movement. The US was still racially segregated at the time, to the point where people of color had designated facilities and amenities that kept them separate from others. Although previous Supreme Court cases such as Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896 guaranteed that people of color would have access to “separate but equal” accommodations, that turned out not to always be the case.

Reforming the rules

Linda Carol Brown was a young African American girl in Topeka, Kansas. During the summer of 1950, leading up to her third-grade year, her parents sought to enroll her in summer school. Her family lived just down the street from an all-white elementary school, with the nearest school designated for children of color being miles away. Her family applied to the school near their home, and the school board denied her entry. In response, her father formed a partnership with the NAACP and other plaintiffs to file a lawsuit against the Topeka School Board. By 1952, four other states and provinces had similar cases challenging racial segregation in the public school system. Brown’s case finally reached a verdict two years later, in 1954, making it illegal to segregate children in schools based on the color of their skin. However, the battle for civil rights was only just beginning.

The legacy continues

While equality is undoubtedly far from perfect in the US, the civil rights movements that punctuated the 20th century dismantled many of the Reformation-era provisions to “incorporate” people of color into society post-emancipation. Linda Brown went on to be a teacher, and she never lost her passion for advocacy. She continued to fight for equal education through local programs, a resurrection of her 1954 case in defense of her children, and through public speaking.