Sylvia Mendez and Her Parents Fought School Segregation Years Before ‘Brown v. Board’


The 8-year-old dreamed of going to the “beautiful school” white children attended and not the Mexican school, which consisted of two wooden shacks filled with second-hand books and faulty desks.

10 years before the milestone Brown v. Leading body of Education case finished racial isolation in schools the nation over, a Mexican family in California made ready for uniformity in schools.

At the focal point of the 1946 case was Sylvia Mendez, a 8-year-old young lady in Westminster, California, who longed for setting off to the “excellent school” white youngsters joined in and not the Mexican school not far off.

Her family in the long run won the Mendez v. Westminster case, which prohibited the utilization of explicit schools for Spanish-talking youngsters in Westminster, in the long run finishing isolation in general across California.

“This is the historical backdrop of the United States, the historical backdrop of California,” Mendez told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. “Mendez isn’t just about Mexicans. It’s about everyone meeting up. On the off chance that you begin battling for equity, at that point individuals, everything being equal, will get included.”

The main occasion of separation came when the school dismissed the Mendez kids

The Mendez family’s battle began in 1944 in the wake of moving to the territory to rent a homestead from a Japanese American family who had been constrained into an internment camp. At the point when Mendez and her kin endeavored to enroll for the seventeenth Street School, which white kids joined in, they were dismissed while their cousins with more pleasant skin and a French last name were permitted to enlist.

Mendez’s auntie wouldn’t represent the segregation and left with all the children. At the point when Mendez’s father, Gonzalo, endeavored to cure the circumstance and was again denied, despite the fact that he had gone to the school in his childhood, the farmworker chose to retaliate.

It wasn’t only the racial separation that irritated the Mendez family. The Mexican school didn’t have similar conveniences as the other and were utilized to Americanize the youngsters. The school comprised of two wooden shacks loaded up with used books, defective work areas and little incitement. Mendez reviewed to the Los Angeles Times how the understudies weren’t educated to peruse and compose, yet rather, the young men were prepared for work and the young ladies trained on housekeeping obligations like sewing and sewing.


The Mendez family at that point attracted others to the reason

While Mendez’s mom, Felicitas, assumed control over the running of the homestead, Gonzalo recruited a legal advisor who had recently won an integration case and began getting out and about in California searching for different guardians ready to defend their kids.

Gonzalo and David Marcus, a social equality lawyer, in the long run discovered four different families from various regions to build a more grounded case.

The five men documented a claim in government court against the four Orange County school areas they originated from, which would proceed to be known as the Mendez v. Westminster case. It spoke to around 5,000 Mexican American youngsters in the locale. While the men contended their kids were not given similar learning open doors as the white kids in the locale, Mendez recalls not understanding what was occurring.

“We went to court each day, I tuned in to what they were stating, however I was dreaming about returning to that delightful school,” she reviewed to the Los Angeles Times.

Their contentions won, with the appointed authorities and social equality association favoring the families

On February 18, 1946, not exactly a year after they documented, Judge Paul J. McCormick managed in solid kindness of the Mendez family and their co-offended parties.

“The proof clearly shows that Spanish-talking kids are impeded in learning English by absence of presentation to its utilization in light of isolation, and that blending of the whole understudy body ingrains and builds up a typical social demeanor among the younger students which is basic for the propagation of American organizations and goals,” McCormick wrote in his decision.

In spite of the fact that the school areas requested, the decision was held a year later and Mendez was permitted to take on seventeenth Street School, where she persevered through racial harassing from cohorts.

“I was crying and crying, and told my mom, ‘I would prefer not to go to the white school!’ And she stated, ‘Sylvia, you were in court each day. Don’t you know what we were battling? We weren’t battling so you could go to that excellent white school. We were battling in light of the fact that you’re equivalent to that white kid,'” Mendez later reviewed.

While geologically little, the case had enduring repercussions

Mendez v. Westminster would proceed to leave an enduring inheritance on the notable individuals around it. Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, at that point a NAACP lawyer, composed an amicus brief working on this issue supporting the Mendez cause. He would proceed to utilize a portion of similar contentions in Brown v. Leading body of Education not exactly 10 years after the fact while filling in as the lead lawyer working on this issue.

It additionally affected then-California Governor Earl Warren, who altogether prohibited school isolation in the state after the Mendez administering was maintained by government court. In a decisive touch of occasions, Warren had become Chief Justice of the U. S. High Court when Marshall contended Brown v. Leading group of Education before him in 1954. Warren composed the consistent choice authoritatively announcing school isolation laws unlawful over all states.

Mendez keeps on respecting her dad and mom’s work right up ’til today

In spite of the fact that the decision legitimately impacted the choice in the more-celebrated Brown case, the Mendez family was rarely discussed in a similar worship. Gonzalo kicked the bucket in 1964 at age 51, unconscious of how his battle would proceed to change the nation. At the point when Felicitas later became sick and passed on in 1998, she requested that her little girl keep focusing on what their family cultivated.

Mendez, presently in her 80s, has committed her life to her family’s memory since. In the wake of functioning as a medical attendant for 30 years, Mendez resigned and now gives talks the nation over to feature how her family’s battle made ready for integration.

The year her mom kicked the bucket, the Santa Ana school area named a school the “Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez Fundamental Intermediate School” to respect her and her better half. On the 60th commemoration of the case, the family was celebrated with an exceptional stamp from the U.S. Postal Service.

In February 2011, Mendez was granted the Presidential Medal of Freedom under President Barack Obama, establishing her family’s inheritance.

“At the point when I got it I was unable to quit crying, since I was thinking at long last my mom and father are getting the thanks they merit,” Mendez told the Los Angeles Times. “This is theirs, not mine. They faced the foundation.”