In the early part of the 20th century, Mexican-American children were often segregated into “Mexican” schools. Usually in ramshackle rooms or barns, these kids were not allowed to be educated in the same manner as their Anglo counterparts. A Mexican-American child was not permitted inside an Anglo school.
In 1945, Mexican-American parents attempted to enroll their children into an elementary school in the Westminster School District in Orange County, California. The children and their parents were turned away and told to enroll in the “Mexican” school. One of those families was named Mendez. Not willing to accept less for their daughter Sylvia, they organized, and filed a lawsuit on behalf of 5,000 families, across four school districts in Orange County.
With the help of future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, Mendez v. Westminster ruled in favor of the Mexican-American families, overturning the California law, and setting up the legal groundwork for the monumental Brown v. Board of Education, seven years later.
This brief photo essay helps visualize the complex, and equal parts triumphant and tragic history of Mexican segregation in the United States, up to the present.