NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover shares the sentiment of African American leaders and educators across the country as they mourn the death of Linda Brown, a key plaintiff in the monumental Brown v. Board of Education case.
“Linda Brown will always be a reminder to young people everywhere that there’s no age limit on creating change,” said Glover. “Thrusted into the national spotlight as a little girl, Brown was at the center of the Brown v. Board of Education case that ended segregation in American schools. More than 60 years later, Tennessee State University, and other educational institutions across the country, continue to benefit from the sacrifice made by Brown and her family. She is an iconic figure in the Civil Rights Movement and should be celebrated as such, and recognized for her bravery. We have lost an essential part of our nation’s history, but it will never be forgotten.”
Historians say Brown, who died March 25 at the age of 76, and other plaintiffs in the historic U.S. Supreme Court case helped lay some of the groundwork for cases like the one involving Rita Sanders Geier in 1968.
It was the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s announcement of its plans for a Nashville campus that prompted Geier, then just 23 years old, to challenge the action in U.S. District Court. She claimed a full-fledged UT campus would divert state resources from Tennessee State University in Nashville.
The court eventually ordered a settlement that imposed racial goals for all Tennessee colleges. Both sides agreed to replace it with a stipulation agreement–the Geier Consent Decree.
“Rita (Geier) Sanders and the students involved in the struggle were heirs of the courage manifested by Linda Brown … and other countless children who were actors in the effort to break down racial barriers in America’s educational system,” said Dr. Leoratha Williams, an assistant history professor at Tennessee State.
In a recent interview, Geier said the ruling in Brown v Board of Education “changed the landscape completely in terms of educational opportunity,” and she joined Glover and Williams in lauding the bravery of Brown and other young people who endured the psychological trauma of trying to learn in a hostile environment.
“It was a cornerstone ruling that racial segregation in public education was illegal,” said Geier. “It significantly opened the door for higher education because the theories on which we based our higher education suit were founded in the cases that followed Brown in elementary and secondary education.”
Note: featured photo of Linda Brown courtesy of The New York Times
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With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.