Sylvia Mendez on Civil Rights in the 1940s and Today – Podcast Episode 123 | Classnotes Podcast 123

Classnotes Podcast (May 20, 2013) Sylvia Mendez remembers vividly the day in March of 1945 when her family was told she and the other children had to go to the “Mexican school.” Her father knew it wasn’t right. So, along with other families and with the help of LULAC, the Mendez sued four local school districts for segregating their children. Thurgood Marshall co-authored an amicus brief filed by the NAACP. The subsequent 1947 ruling in Mendez vs. Westminster and the California Board of Education ended segregation in California school districts.

In this interview, Sylvia Mendez tells her story and describes how the Mendez case foreshadowed Brown vs. Board of Education less than a decade later. She cautions that schools are more segregated today then in the 1940s. She is interviewed by Kristin Grayson, M.Ed., an IDRA education associate and Bradley Scott, Ph.D., director of the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity, provides and introduction.

Show length: 12:25

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Mendez vs. Westminster, A Look At Our Latino Heritage

Sylvia Mendez

IDRA Fulfilling the Promise of Mendez and Brown website

IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity

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Show Notes

  • Sylvia recounts that the events that triggered the Mendez case, as well as her attendance at the trial itself.

  • Sylvia discusses about the aftermath of the Mendez verdict, and the integration of Mexican American students in Westminster and a subsequent school district where her family moved to.

  • In the speeches that Sylvia now gives regularly on justice and civil rights, she tells Latino students to fight against the “de-facto segregation” that still exists in many schools, arguing that “education is the answer.”

  • Sylvia talks about fulfilling a promise to her late mother to pass on the Mendez story, to help students recognize that they are in college today because past generations of students have fought for them and their rights. She hopes to inspire today’s generation to “stand up to the establishment” and to “pay it forward.”