Standing Up for Our American Principles


On a September morning in 1943, the three Mendez children who were living in the Munemitsu farmhouse got ready for their first day at Westminster 17th Street School. But when Sylvia, Gonzalo, Jr. and Jerome arrived at school that morning, they were turned away. “Your name is Mendez. You have to go to the Mexican school,” they were told.

The children’s parents, Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez, were American citizens. The children had all been born here. So they appealed to the district superintendent, but to no avail. They were directed to Hoover School, a school without a strong curriculum in English, history, math and science, and no playground for recess or lunch. Gonzalo and Felicitas rallied the community and together they appealed to the school board and to the county superintendent of schools, but the answer was always the same.