Dozens of parents and community members got a preview Wednesday of a new memorial honoring the historic Mendez v. Westminster case that ended segregation in California public schools.
The city of Westminster hosted an open house with a replica of the Mendez Historic Freedom Trail and Monument, which will break ground in coming months along a 2.5-mile stretch along Hoover Avenue onto Westminster Avenue.
The open house featured scale-sized reproductions of many of the features that will be included in the trail. OCDE is teaming up with Westminster to create content and curriculum for the project. Visitors on Wednesday reviewed posters, printouts and digital copies of the stations that will line the trail, which will also include sculptures and artwork.
“This trail will offer generations of students a glimpse into the history of this important case,” said Sylvia Mendez, whose parents Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez sued the school district after she and her siblings were turned away in 1943 from the “white” school.
Eventually, other Orange County families from other school district joined the suit. Following a groundbreaking 1946 victory in the U.S. District Court, the case was appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the ruling in 1947. The case served as a precedent in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case that ended segregation nationally.
“We’ve come such a long way since then,” Sylvia Mendez said as she walked through the open house. Throughout the event, visitors asked to take photos with her. “If you look around the room here, you see people from all different backgrounds and cultures coming together to honor the history of this case.”
Sylvia Mendez has spent much of the past two decades traversing the country speaking to students and other groups about the historic case. In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded the activist the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Mendez Historic Freedom Trail and Monument is supported by contributions from individuals and organizations, including the not-for-profit College Board, and city officials are looking to raise an additional $80,000 to reach their goal. Donations can be made at www.MendezTribute.com.