Illustration for article titled Groundbreakers

Zelma Henderson, a Kansas beautician and the sole surviving plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the landmark 1954 federal desegregation case, died on Tuesday. She was 88. Henderson grew up in Colby, where her family was one of two black families; when she was a girl, her family moved to Oakley, a bigger town with more black people but no "black school", because Kansas law dictated that elementary schools should only be segregated in towns of 15,000 or more. But when she moved to Topeka and had children, they were bused to an all-black school on the other side of town. In 1950, the Topeka chapter of the NAACP organized a class-action suit and Mrs. Henderson served as a plaintiff. Coincidentally, the school in question, Sumner Elementary, is now on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's endangered list. [NY Times, CNN]



@Rhody: Agreed. I actually started interviewing all of my grandmother's best friends when I was in college. They are this amazing group of aging Southern ladies who lived through a tumultous transitional time. They're stories are unique and captivating, plus they are all much stronger and more independent than women of their era are usually depicted. I decided to take on the task of recording their stories because if we don't do it now, we may lose them forever.