Oliver Brown (civil rights)
Oliver L. Brown (August 19, 1918 Springfield, Missouri – June 1961) was the plaintiff in the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case Oliver L. Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, more famously known by its shorter title Brown v. Board of Education. The Court ruled in favor of Brown. This decision overturned the separate but equal doctrine that had been used as the standard in Civil Rights lawsuits since the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896, in effect declaring it unconstitutional to have separate public schools for black and white students. The decision is considered a major milestone in the U.S. civil-rights movement.
Brown was a welder in the shops of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, an assistant pastor at St. Mark's A.M.E Church. Brown's daughter Linda, a third grader, had to walk six blocks to her school bus stop to ride to Monroe Elementary, her segregated black school one mile (1.6 km) away, while Sumner Elementary, a white school, was seven blocks from her house.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the NAACP was attempting to desegregate schools in Kansas through lawsuits. Brown, a NAACP member, was convinced to join the lawsuit by civil-rights lawyer Charles S. Scott, a childhood friend. In the autumn of 1950, 13 Topeka parents including the Browns agreed to take their children to the nearest whites-only school to their house with witnesses, and attempt to enroll them. This provided documentation for the NAACP's lawsuit, which was filed in February 1951. Brown, as the only male parent, was designated the lead plaintiff, so the case bore his name. The lawsuit was defeated in federal district court, but its decision provided evidence to prove that black people were receiving inferior education, proof that the "separate but equal" doctrine was not working. This led to a wider federal lawsuit that challenged segregation in general. It was eventually appealed to the Supreme Court, combined with other cases from Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, DC. The combined cases became known by the title of the Kansas case: Oliver L. Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka. On May 17, 1954, the Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the segregation of schoolchildren by race was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Brown died of a heart attack in Springfield, Missouri in 1961. In 1988, the nonprofit Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research was founded by Topeka community members to honor Oliver Brown and to preserve the legacy of the Civil Rights movement. His daughter Cheryl Brown Henderson works with the foundation. On October 26, 1992, after two years of work by the Brown Foundation, President George H. W. Bush signed the Brown v. The Board of Education National Historic Site Act, establishing the former Monroe Elementary School as a national park.
- Linder, Douglas. "The Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka: An Account". University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
- Encarta entry on Brown. Archived 2009-10-31.
- Interactive map of locations in Topeka important to the Brown case – Topeka Capital Journal online.
- Plains Encyclopedia
- MSNBC: 2005
- National Park Service