Can Ordinary People Change History?

Can ordinary people change history? Starting in 1943, people living here in Westminster did just that. Ordinary people made life in Orange County better for all of us by standing for our American principles and assuring that all students could go to school together, learn together, and exemplify the American motto, “E pluribus unum,” or “Out of many, one.”

This is the story of Mendez, et al, v. Westminster, et al.

In 1943, Orange County was very different than it is today. There were about 140,000 people living here then, or less than 5 percent of our current population. Farms stretched out across the county. One of those farms belonged to the Munemitsu family. But the Munemitsus were not on their farm in 1943. They weren’t in Orange County at all. They had been swept up in the mass relocation and incarceration of Japanese-American families in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the signing of Executive Order 9066. Many Japanese-Americans lost their farms and homes because of the injustice of the internment camps, but the Munemitsus were able to find another Orange County family to lease their land and work their farm in their absence.

That family was the Mendez family.

Mendez family

Latino farm workers

Japanese-Americans in an internment camp