Lack of Recognition: Brown vs Board of Education

During the mid-1900s, many schools were separated by the color of one’s skin. There was a “white” school, “black” school, as well as a “Mexican” school. Sylvia Méndez was a student at a local Hispanic school in Santa Ana, California, where she was born and raised. Her and her siblings were born to a Puerto Rican mother and a Mexican father. Her father, Gonzalo Méndez, was an immigrant from Mexico and her mother, Felicitas Méndez, was from Puerto Rico.

Her mother later became a pioneer for the civil rights movement as she fought for her children to receive equal education opportunities. During World War II, the Méndez family lived on a farm in Santa Ana that they were renting from a Japanese-American family that was sent to an Internment camp.

As she was getting older, her parents began to realize that Sylvia, her siblings, and her cousins would receive a better education if they were to attend a Whites-only school.

Where they would have more efficient resources provided for them. Her parents stepped out in faith and decided to try and enroll each of the children in a whites-only school. Sylvia’s aunt took her, her brother and her cousins to enroll. According to an article by Jeffrey Sudduth, the Whites-only school said that her light-skinned cousins would be able to attend the school, but Sylvia and her siblings were not allowed to attend (Sudduth, 2017). At eight-years-old she was denied access to a better education because of the color of her skin.

Get quality help now
Bella Hamilton
5 (234)

“ Very organized ,I enjoyed and Loved every bit of our professional interaction ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

From a very young age she dealt with discrimination, but she has fought through it. Sylvia was raised by two parents who fought for her to have the education she deserved.

Throughout her education career, Sylvia faced many obstacles surrounding her ethnicity. Her mother and father felt it was important to raise awareness of the injustice within the education system. Both, her mother and father, gathered the other Hispanic families within their area and filed a lawsuit. They were filling a lawsuit against 17th Street Elementary as Gonzalo believed that many should be able to receive a decent education no matter what their ethnicity is. Her parents advocated for her and her siblings to attend a school that would be better for them and provide them with many more opportunities.

According to Melissa Brevetti, Mendez shared how during the Mendez vs. Westminster case, the whites-only school said that there was a language barrier for Hispanic children (Brevetti, 2017, p.77). The elementary school said that Hispanic children struggled to speak English. Their argument did not take them very far when Sylvia and other Hispanic students testified. During this case, many people supported Mr. Méndez and the fight against discrimination within the education system. Many minority groups provided their support for the Méndez family during this time. The Méndez family won the case and Sylvia as well as her siblings were able to attend 17th Street Elementary. The Méndez vs. Westminster case paved the way for other huge educational cases. For instance, shortly after this case, Brown vs. Board of Education took place. These impactful cases led to elevate all segregation within schools across the U.S.

The Time Sylvia Grew up in

Sylvia grew up during a time were segregation within schools was present. Many minorities were treated terribly in many ways: education was one. Discrimination was very present in the school system as many minorities fought to receive a better education. This was happening during World War II, Japanese-Americans were relocated to internment camps and Hispanic and African-American individuals were fighting to receive an education were there were better books and advanced materials available. During this time, many minority groups were disrespected and treated with a lack of compassion. The fight for a better education resulted in filing lawsuits against schools and school districts. The color of one’s skin determined the opportunities that would be available or offered to certain individuals. In the court, many of the schools fought against minorities and gave either false realities or provided an argument that was lacking factual evidence. For example, during the Méndez vs. Westminster case, the school shared how Hispanic children simply did not know English. When the children testified, it brought to light the false narratives that they provided.

Why Her Story Should be Taught

Sylvia Mendez has a unique story that displays determination, integrity, and complete drive through many different hardships. The Mendez vs. Westminster case really set the tone for other minority groups that faced discrimination within the school system. Her story is powerful and brings awareness to the struggles that many Hispanics have gone through. Sylvia embraces the whole theme of pursing one’s dream. According Brevetti, Sylvia was young during the time where her parents fought for her and her siblings to attend a school with elite materials. Melissa Brevetti states, “Mendez’s defining testimony brings history to life in negative and positive ways” (Brevetti, 2017, p. 77). The negative aspect of her story is that every part of it is tough to hear. Minorities faced discrimination within education: a harsh reality.

Sylvia shares how difficult it was to stay in a school where many of her peers treated her with disrespect because she was not the same color as them. She shared with Brevetti that her father expressed to her “You have to stay in this school. This is what we have been fighting for, because you are equal to them” (Brevetti, 2017, p.78). This statement is a testament to the hardships Sylvia and her family fought through. This statement demonstrates the fight that the Méndez family had within them. Their story is powerful. It is a reminder that Hispanics did not have it easy. Minorities did not have it easy. Her and her family’s story deserves to be brought to light. It paved the way for many other minority groups. It the start of a powerful movement. The hardships, the inspiring drive to bring to the injustice within education should be discussed among many.

Cite this page

Lack of Recognition: Brown vs Board of Education. (2021, Dec 10). Retrieved from

Lack of Recognition: Brown vs Board of Education
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7