Last Brown v. Board of Ed Plaintiff, Zelma Henderson, Dies

Zelma Henderson, the sole surviving plaintiff in the landmark desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, died of pancreatic cancer Tuesday. She was 88.

In a news obituary featuring Henderson, the New York Times notes that the lifelong Topeka, Kan., resident was one of the “et al.” named plaintiffs in the 1951 Kansas class-action suit, Oliver L. Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka et al.

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 1954, Henderson went on to become a beautician. The Times reports she often appeared at Brown-related events and was widely used as a source for stories about the case.

Quoted in a Dallas Morning New story in 1994, Henderson said, “None of us knew that this case would be so important and come to the magnitude it has. What little bit I did, I feel I helped the whole nation.”

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