Linda Brown, who at age 9 was at the center of the Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court case in 1954, has died. She was 76.
Brown’s sister, Cheryl Brown Henderson, confirmed the death on Monday, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. Funeral arrangements are being made at the Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel of Topeka which confirmed Brown died Sunday afternoon as reported by the Associated Press.
In 1951, a class action suit was filed against the Board of Education of the City of Topeka after Linda’s father, Oliver Brown, and several black families tried to enroll their children in the formerly all-white Sumner School and were turned away. Linda was in the third grade at the time.
The NAACP’s legal arm brought the lawsuit to challenge segregation in public schools, and Oliver became the lead plaintiff in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court that unanimously ruled “separate but equal” schools violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
Seven years later, in 1961, Oliver died at the age of 42.
“I sat on a stool in the office while Daddy talked with the principal,” Linda told PEOPLE in December 1986, recalling how segregation was then legal in Kansas and 17 other states. “I could feel the tension coming from Daddy’s hand and his face looked very stern on the way home.”
Linda and sister Cheryl founded the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research in 1988.