New bike path in Westminster to commemorate groundbreaking school desegregation ruling

The city of Westminster has announced plans to build a new bike path that will honor the historic court ruling ending school segregation in California.

Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez

Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez challenged segregation in California’s public schools with the Mendez et al v. Westminster lawsuit, which ultimately prevailed and paved the way for the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board ruling in 1954.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the landmark Mendez et al v. Westminster decision, which declared separate schools for Mexican American students unlawful and laid the foundation for the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954.

Though lesser known than Brown v. Board, the Mendez lawsuit — brought by Orange County residents Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez on behalf of their daughter, Sylvia — has been highlighted in countless articles, featured in a documentary and commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp. (OCDE also produced this podcast earlier in the year.)

Yet, as Orange County Register reporter Peter Larsen notes in a recent column, there aren’t really any local monuments to mark the case’s place in U.S. history.

Fittingly, the “The Mendez Historic Freedom Trail” will run along Hoover Street near the site once occupied by Hoover Elementary School, where Sylvia Mendez and other children of Mexican descent were assigned. The path will travel between Garden Grove Boulevard and Bolsa Avenue, according to an announcement on Westminster’s Facebook page.

The project will be funded through a $2.3 million grant from the California Natural Resources Agency and is expected to begin in early 2019.