Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

C-J Extra: Wife of Brown V. Board Plaintiff Recalls Landmark Decision

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

C-J Extra: Wife of Brown V. Board Plaintiff Recalls Landmark Decision

Article excerpt

It has been almost 62 years since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case, but Topeka resident Leola Brown-Montgomery remembers it well.

Brown-Montgomery, the wife of plaintiff Oliver Brown, is modest when talking about her role in the landmark ruling that ended segregation in public schools. However, while her husband was in the foreground in the case bearing his name, she was always involved and helped him make decisions, including whether to take part in the lawsuit.

Now a spry 94-year-old, Brown-Montgomery looks and acts decades younger. She shops and cleans for herself, goes on senior outings and loves to travel. She went to Washington, D.C., last May.

Her Topeka home is filled with memorabilia: a wall hanging of the plaintiffs and attorneys in the historic desegregation case; pictures of herself with legendary civil rights activist Rosa Parks and President Barack Obama; Christmas cards from the White House.

She has met four U.S. presidents, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, and South Africa president Nelson Mandela during a trip to Africa.

Q: Was there one particular incident that led to the lawsuit, or did you simply feel it was wrong for your daughters to be treated differently than white children?

Brown-Montgomery: We felt it was unfair for our daughters to have to walk five blocks through a rail yard to travel 2 1/2 miles by bus to get to school when there was a school just four blocks from us. He (Oliver Brown) tried to enroll them at the school nearby, but the principal told us it just wasn't done. The local NAACP encouraged us to file the suit and then brought the national NAACP office in to help.

Q: Was it a tough decision to make? …

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