The Latina Who Desegregated California

Contributor
School of Nursing

It is hard to believe that in the not so distant past California was a state that enforced segregation at various levels, including our education system. Sylvia Mendez was prohibited from enrolling in a school near her hometown in Orange County, California. Her parents were not only upset but took action, which resulted in the Mendez vs. Westminster case in 1947.

This case challenged racial segregation and the notion that students such as Sylvia Mendez should only be allowed to enroll in “Mexican Schools.” The Mendez’s victory served as a catalyst and a legal precedent that led to the desegregation of all Orange County facilities, as well as the rest of California.  It set into motion future court proceedings, such as Brown vs. Board of Education, that abolished national segregation and fought for equal education.

Sylvia Mendez went on to obtain an Associate’s degree in nursing from Orange Community College, earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing, and a certificate in Public Health from California State University, Los Angeles. It is an honor to welcome Sylvia Mendez, an American civil rights activist, advocate of education, nurse, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient to UCSF. The School of Nursing, Office of Diversity and Outreach, and Voces Latinas are thrilled to have such an inspiring leader speak to our UCSF campus community.  The event takes place on Wednesday, November 12th from 5:30-7:00 pm in HSW 300.  We hope that you will attend.