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Mendez vs. Westminster: For All the Children/Para Todos los Niños is a 2003 Americanmarker documentary film written, directed, and produced by Sandra Robbie. The film features Sylvia Mendez, Robert L. Carter, and others.


In the mid-1940s, a tenant farmer named Gonzalo Mendez moved his family to the predominantly white Westminstermarker district in Orange Countymarker and his children were denied admission to the public school on Seventeenth Street. The Mendez family move was prompted by the opportunity to lease a farm in Westminster from the Munemitsus, a Japanese family who had been relocated to a Japanesemarker internment camp during World War II. The income the Mendez family earned from the farm enabled them to hire attorney David Marcus and pursue litigation.

In 1945, the plaintiffs of Mendez, Palomino, Estrada, Guzman and Ramirez filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 5,000 Mexican American children to integrate the schools in four Orange Countymarker school districts: Westminstermarker, El Modenamarker, Santa Anamarker, and Garden Grovemarker.


Mendez vs. Westminster: For All the Children/Para Todos los Niños discusses the little-known Orange County case that made Californiamarker the first state in the nation to end school segregation – seven years before Brown v. Board of Education. NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall and then-California Governor Earl Warren played key roles in both cases.

Unlike Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which focused on racial discrimination and upheld the constitutionality of segregation based on race in public accommodations under the doctrine of "separate but equal," the plaintiffs in Mendez v. Westminster argued that the students were segregated into separate schools based solely on their national origin.

The U.S. Postal Service commemorated the Mendez case on a postage stamp in September 2007.






  • David S. Ettinger, The History of School Desegregation in the Ninth Circuit, 12 Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review 481, 484-487 (1979).


  1. Mendez vs. Westminster: For All the Children/Para Todos los Niños film web site.
  2. City of Cerritos Public Library. Last accessed: June 14 2008.

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