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America's History in the Making

Resource Archive: Search Results

Mendez v. Westminister School District of Orange County

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Honorable Paul J. McCormick, JUDGEMENT AND INJUNCTION FROM MENDEZ ET AL. V. WESTMINISTER SCHOOL DISTRICT OF ORANGE COUNTY (1946). Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Creator Paul J. McCormick, U.S. Circuit Court judge
Context Latino protests against public school segregation in post-World War II southern California
Audience Defense, plaintiffs, and the State of California
Purpose To strike down public school segregation laws against minorities in California

Historical Significance

Brown is largely cited as the ruling that spurred desegregation in the United States, but other court cases on the state level predated this ruling. In 1946, the school desegregation case of Mendez v. Westminister placed the struggle for civil rights across regional, racial, and ethnic lines. Five Mexican American parents challenged local school board polices because districts in Orange County, California, forced their children and 5,000 other students to attend "Mexican" schools. In California, the Ninth Circuit Court outlawed the segregation of Mexican American students based on their national origin. In June 1946, Governor Earl Warren signed legislation that ended "separate but equal" school segregation statutes in California schools. By 1954, the issue of school segregation had reached the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education.

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