In most American history textbooks, you can read about Brown v. Board of Education.
They tell the story of the landmark victory for the Brown family that overturned institutionalized racism in American schools.
The story they don’t tell is the one of the five Mexican-American families from Orange County that first took the fight for the integration of schools to court.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of Mendez v. Westminster. A middle school next to Santa Ana College and a library at Santiago Canyon College, named after two of the families that fought against discrimination, stand as tribute to the impact of the court case.
Yet, most textbooks omit the story. The ones that do speak about the Mendez case briefly mention it in a few sentences.
The Estrada, Guzman, Palomino, and Ramirez families, also plaintiffs in the case, are rarely mentioned.
The racial oppression that was experienced by Mexican migrants in the 1940s in Orange County is also overlooked.
Few know that at Hart Park in Orange, Mexicans could not go in the pool at the same time as whites, or that on the deeds of some homes in Orange, there were bans from selling those homes to members of any minority.
Mendez v. Westminster did more than set a precedent that led to the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
The history behind and effects of it deserve more than just a couple of sentences in a history book.