Linda Brown, civil rights activist

Brown third from left was one of six children involved in the civil rights lawsuit that challenged racial segregation in public schools

Brown died on Sunday in her hometown of Topeka, Kansas, the state capital, Robin Bruce, administrator for the Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel in Topeka, told Reuters on Monday.

Linda Brown Thompson, who as a young girl was the student at the center of the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education that declared school segregation unconstitutional, has died in Topeka, Kansas.

Even with the decision, it took years of protest and legal battles before segregation would end.

It was only there, she told the New York Times as a senior in 1961, that she began to realize the significance of the court decision.

In 1979, Brown reopened another school-segregation case that led to the desegregation of Topeka Unified School District 501 in 1993. "Linda Brown's life reminds us that by standing up for our principles and serving our communities we can truly change the world".

Packaged together, the suits were successfully argued by an NAACP legal team led by Thurgood Marshall, who later served as a Supreme Court justice. She was an accomplished pianist and for 40-plus years provided musical accompaniment for several choirs at St. Mark's African Methodist Episcopal Church in Topeka, a church pastored by her late father Rev. Oliver Brown in the early 1950s. When her father joined the lawsuit, neighborhoods in Topeka were partially integrated, Brown said in a 1985 interview for the documentary series "Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years".

A 1954 decision by the US Supreme Court followed, striking down racial segregation in schools and cementing Ms Brown's place in history as a key figure in the landmark case. The historical case, known as Brown v. Board of Education, turned out in the plaintiff's favor.

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People walk past a sign in front of the Monroe Elementary School on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Oliver L. Brown v the Board of Education of Topeka May 17, 2004 in Topeka, Kansas.

Brown's side won that case in a Court of Appeals, leading to the construction of three new area schools, according to

While she confirmed her passing, Brown's sister Cheryl said the family would not be commenting.

The Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research was opened in 1988 to honor the plaintiffs and attorneys in the case and to advocate for equal opportunity.

Linda Brown was born February 20, 1942, in Topeka and was in junior high - where Topeka had already begun to integrate - by the time of the historic court ruling. "It was not easy for her or her family, but her sacrifice broke barriers and changed the meaning of equality in this country", Ms. Ifill said in a statement.

She is survived by a son and a daughter as well as other relatives, it said. "I really think of it in terms of what it has done for our young people, in taking away that feeling of second-class citizenship", shehad said, Los Angeles Times reported.

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