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*Linda Brown Thompson was born on this date in 1943. She was a Black activist, educational consultant, pianist, music teacher, and public speaker.
From Topeka, Kansas, Linda Brown was the oldest of three children born to Oliver and Leola Brown. She graduated from Central High School in Springfield, Missouri, and received certification in early childhood education from Kansas State University. As one of the children of the Rev. Oliver L. Brown, for whom the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in Brown v. Board of Education is named, Linda Brown traveled the country with other family members lecturing about the history of this significant civil rights milestone. She, her family, and others involved in the cases consolidated under Brown were guests at the White House during the Clinton and Obama Administrations.
Media reports regarding Brown v. Board of Education have been misleading. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Oliver L. Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka, KS et al. was a class action lawsuit developed and filed by the NAACP representing families from Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The Topeka case in Brown was the brainchild of McKinley Burnett, who was President of the local NAACP at the time. The organization recruited families to stand as plaintiffs resulting in a class of 13. Her father was among the 13 parents recruited.
Brown v. Board was never centered around one individual. There were nearly three hundred plaintiffs on the roster in the lawsuit whose names were obscured by the legal abbreviation of et al. The Topeka case involved 12 schools. The four segregated African American elementary schools in Topeka were Buchanan, McKinley, Monroe, and Washington. The Topeka case also involved eight segregated schools for white children where African American parents attempted to enroll their children. During the court proceedings, Linda attended Monroe and McKinley elementary schools.
Brown with her children, 1974 (AP)
During her life, Brown was a Head Start teacher and, at one time, taught private music lessons in piano. Brown was married to William L. Thompson, the mother of Charles D. Smith of Topeka, Kansas, and a daughter Kimberly A. Smith of Kansas City.
In 1988, Brown and her sister Cheryl founded the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence, and Research. She was a Program Associate, assisting with establishing four libraries for preschool children. She was an accomplished pianist and, for 40-plus years, provided musical accompaniment for several choirs at the church pastored by her father, St. Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church in Topeka. As a longstanding administrator at St. Mark’s over the years, she chaired several project committees and occasionally spoke for church programs. Linda Brown Thompson passed away on March 25, 2018, at Lexington Park Nursing & Post-Acute Center.
Cheryl Brown Henderson