Schools were still segregated in Westminster, CA, when Mexican-Puerto Rican Sylvia Mendez and her family came to town from Santa Ana in the 1940’s. When Mendez and her brothers were denied access to an all-white elementary school, her parents filed a lawsuit in Federal Court in Los Angeles against the school district. (Mendez vs. Westminster)
On February 18, 1946, Judge Paul McCormick ruled in favor of Mendez, making her one of the first Hispanics to attend an all-white school. Mendez’s case ended de jure segregation in California, setting a precedent for Brown vs. Board of Education seven years later, which brought an end to school segregation in the entire country.
On Feb 15, 2011, Sylvia Mendez received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama at the White House. Mendez vs. Westminster was awarded a OC Human Relations Award in 2014.