Before 'Brown V. Board,' Mendez Fought California's Segregated Schools : Code Switch : NPR: Sylvia Mendez says the only reason she wanted to go to an all-white school in California's Westminster District in the 1940s was because of its beautiful playground. The school that she and other Latino students were forced to attend didn't have monkey bars or swings.
"I was 9 years old," she says. "I just thought my parents wanted us to go to the nice-looking school."
But her parents, Gonzalo and Felicitas, were fighting for integration. Seven years before the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the Mendezes brought a class-action lawsuit with other Latino families against four Orange County school districts that had separate schools for whites and Mexicans. Their case went all the way to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. And in 1947 they won: Segregation in those districts ended, and the rest of the state followed.