URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Brown v. Board of Education passed in 1954, marking one of the biggest rulings in U.S. Supreme Court history. But that does not mean public schools automatically integrated overnight.
Factors like residential segregation kept black and white students from going to school together long after 1954. But here in Illinois, Urbana Schools became the first district in the state to implement a concrete desegregation program. That was in the mid-60s and it is all thanks to the Ellis Drive six.
Dr. Evelyn Burnett Underwood was born in Mississippi in 1943. She spent her early years on a cotton plantation where her family worked as sharecroppers.
“At the age of 3 years old, I had to carry the water dipper to dip out the water,” said Dr. Burnett Underwood. “My sister carried the water jug. The field hands couldn’t stop long enough to get a drink of water. They had kids doing that.”
Underwood and her family said goodbye to the south in the early 50s and headed to Urbana.
“We were looking for a better life,” said Burnett Underwood. Little did she know she would help make life better for many people in Urbana.