Diversify your bookshelf

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

By Duncan Tonatiuh

Published in 2014 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

For Grades 2-5


In 1947, seven years before Brown vs. The Board of Education, there was Mendez vs. Westminister, an early desegregation case whose ruling stated that all children in California were allowed to go to school together regardless of race, ethnicity, or language. Using illustrations influenced by ancient Aztec art, Tonatiuh tells the story of Sylvia Mendez and her family’s struggle against racist policy. Mendez being of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent in the 1940’s, only had the option of attending an inferior school designated solely for Hispanic children. Her parents did not accept this and made it their mission to change the injustice their children faced. Mendez went on to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 for her work in educating others about her family’s work towards ending school segregation.

Pair this with a short listen to an NPR story also focusing on Sylvia Mendez.


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