PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland radio personality has an important story to share during Black History Month.
Her grandmother was part of a case that changed the course of history and ended segregation in public schools.
“My grandmother Maude Esther Lawton was one of the original 13 plaintiffs from Topeka, Kansas,” said Crystal Thornton, a radio personality for The Fish.
The case she's talking about is Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark case that ruled segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.
It can be hard to imagine attending a segregated school but it was only in 1954, just 66 years ago, that the Supreme Court made the decision that would become a key component of the civil rights movement.
“It's made it possible for not just black and white students to go to school together, but Asian, Indian, whatever color, whatever race,” Thornton said.
For Thornton, it's also meant more opportunities that she might not have had were it not for her grandmother and the 12 other plaintiffs who stood up for what was right.
“I was the first in my family to graduate from college,” she said.
And there were firsts in high school too.
“I was the first captain of the cheerleading squad that was African American. I was the first homecoming queen.”
Thornton says education has always been her key to success.
“You do yourself a disservice not to take advantage of the education that's presented to you,” she said.
Now more than 60 years after Brown v. board of education the opportunities are there. Thornton says you just must go for it.