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Before Brown v. Board of Education There Was Méndez v. Westminster, by Francisco Macías, In Custodia Lexis, Law Librarians of Congress


As I wrote about earlier in the blog, the case Hernández v. Texas was decided just two weeks prior to Brown; but there is another little-known case that was instrumental for the American civil rights movement: Méndez v. Westminster. While many scholars of educational desegregation assure us that the beginning of the end of the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine was set underway with Brown v. Board of Education. It could be argued that the beginning of that end may actually date back seven years prior, Méndez v. Westminster, which ended the almost 100 years of segregation that had remained a practice since the end of the U.S.-Mexico War of 1848 and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The end of the U.S.-Mexico War gave rise to ‘anti-immigrant sentiments [that] resulted in increased measures to segregate Mexican-Americans from so-called ‘white’ public institutions such as swimming pools, parks, schools, and eating establishments.’. . .