In Celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month Central High School presented the “Mendez vs. Westminster” documentary
The documentary, “Mendez vs. Westminster: For all the Children / Para Todos Los Ninos,” is a 27-minute film about school segregation among Mexican Americans in Orange County, California in a case that preceded the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision. The workshop was held Saturday, September 23, 2006 at 3:30 p.m. in the Central High School Library. The event was free and opened to the public.
In 1954 the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision outlawed legal segregation in education. Seven years earlier in 1946, Mendez et al.v. Westminster et al. established a precedent for the historic Brown v. Board case. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Mendez case.
Sylvia Mendez was 9 years old when she learned that her parents, Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez, were plaintiffs in the Mendez school desegregation case. Sandra Robbie, a Latina, is the producer of “Mendez vs. Westminster: For all the Children / Para Todos Los Ninos.” Robbie first heard of the case about ten years ago when a school in California was named after Gonzalo Mendez.
“I was stunned when I found out about the case,” said Robbie. “There were also feelings of anger, shame, guilt, pride and excitement.” Through extensive research Robbie found that “schools were segregated; swimming pools… there was segregated housing, and even signs that said no dogs or Mexicans.” Robbie conveys the importance of the Mendez case in the documentary and said, “It really shows how people of many colors helped change America. It helps you see the common humanity”
The documentary and special presentation were a partnership with Unity in the Community an organization that celebrates how far Little Rock has progressed since the Central High School desegregation crisis fifty years ago. For more information about Unity in the Community visit the website www.littlerockunity.org.
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site is located at 2125 Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive, across the street from Central High School.