Mendez v. Westminster: For All the Children (book)

Title Mendez v. Westminster: For All the Children: The Story of an American Civil Rights Victory
Author Michael Matsuda; Sandra Robbie
Illustrator Eleazar Martinez
Original Publisher Blue State Press
Original Publication Date 2006
Pages 28

Children's picture book that tells in simplified form the story of the landmark Mendez case that ultimately ended segregated schools in California. The story is told through the perspective of Sylvia Mendez who is eight years old in 1943. Having rented the farm of Munemitsu family, who had been forcibly removed to concentration camps, they were new to Westminster, California. When she and her brothers are prohibited from attending the same school as her cousins (who can pass as "white") and must attend the inferior school for those of Mexican, African or Asian ancestry, her family decides to sue. With the help of lawyer David C. Marcus—and support from various organizations including the Japanese American Citizens League—the suit proves successful, ending segregation in the state. A brief epilogue notes the long-term impact of the case and the fate of Sylvia and others involved in it.

Co-author Sandra Robbie grew up in Westminster and is of Mexican descent, but did not know about the case growing up. In 2003, she produced and directed a documentary film on the case titled Mendez vs. Westminster: For All the Children/Para Todos los Niños. Co-author Michael Matsuda was a schoolteacher who later became superintendent of the Anaheim Union School District.

Mendez v. Westminster was funded in part by a grants from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program and the Wells Fargo Foundation.

A second book on the case, Winifred Conkling's Sylvia & Aki (2011) focuses on the friendship between Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

Might also like: Heroes by Ken Mochizuki; The Journey by Sheila Hamanaka; So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting

For More Information

Perez, Erica. "Children's Book on O.C. Desegregation Debuts." Orange County Register, Sept. 12, 2006.