The court case of Mendez v. Westminster was a federal case that several bold Orange County parents fought against the segregated schooling system in Orange County that forced Mexican Americans to attend “Mexican Schools.” This 1947 case predates the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education, which eradicated racial segregation in public schools. Five families – Mendez, Guzman, Palomino, Estrada, and Ramirez – fought against the school districts of Westminster, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and El Modena. As a result of their bravery, Governor Earl Warren signed the Anderson Bill, revoking the statute that allowed segregated public schools in California.
This piece of not only Orange County history but American history deserves to have its place in the Leatherby Libraries. The importance of this case paved the way to eradicate unlawful segregation based on race in the public school system at the federal level. Mendez v. Westminster happened right in our backyard. Located on the 3rd floor in the Leon and Olga Argyros Library of Business and Economics, the Mendez v. Westminster Group Study Room (Room 309) allows students to see what the case was comprised of, how it affected US history, and who was involved. For people like me who were unfamiliar with the case, the room is a great resource in learning about an important piece of US history.
No matter the reason for going into a study room, you’ll always learn something. That’s why I’m so thankful for these themed rooms because they are little windows into worlds that I was unfamiliar with. This room allowed me to learn about Mendez v. Westminster and I bet the next person who studies there will also learn something. It’s the little tidbits of information that we pick up that lead us to greater discoveries. Learning about things such as Mendez v. Westminster shows us how far we have come as a society and where we need to go. We need to remember moments like the five families standing up for their rights in order to grow together.