The Story of Mendez v. Westminster Book

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This is the story of Mendez v Westminster

E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”

Ordinary people here in Westminster made life in Orange County better for all of us. Standing for our American principles, they made sure that all students could learn together as equals.

Years before the United States Supreme Court declared policies promoting racial segregation in schools unconstitutional, the Mendez, et al, v. Westminster School District, et al, case set the precedent. Because of the Mendez Case, California became the first state to officially desegregate its public schools.

The Mendez, Guzman, Palomino, Estrada and Ramirez families waged a legal battle for social equality that still resonates today.

Their victory in 1947 was one of the most influential civil rights cases in American history.

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Truth. Civil Rights. Equality. Life. Liberty. The Pursuit of Happiness.

These American principles guided the Mendez family in their quest for a brighter future for their children.

The journey began in 1943 when the three Mendez children arrived at Westminster’s 17th Street School and were told, “Your name is Mendez. You have to go to the Mexican school.” They were all American citizens.

Other families across Orange County were experiencing similar discrimination, so on March 2, 1945, the Mendez, Guzman, Palomino, Estrada and Ramirez families filed suit against Orange County school districts. They appealed to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law.

The families prevailed in federal court and in 1947 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court decision, assuring the integration of Orange County schools. The Mendez decision laid the foundation for the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

In 2017, the Westminster City Council approved a resolution to honor the Mendez v. Westminster case with the Mendez Freedom Trail and Tribute Monument Park. In this park, and on the trail, you will learn about the case and about the American principles. You will learn how ordinary people can stand together and change history.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

-- Declaration of Independence

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That we are all individuals;

That we are all human beings;

That we are all connected together;

And that we all have the same rights.

-- Sylvia Mendez