Google honors Latina civil rights activist who fought to end school segregation


(KETK)- Google Doodle is showcasing a picture of civil rights activist Felicitas Mendez on Google’s home page on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month.

According to Google, Felicita Gómez Martinez was born on February 5, 1916 in Juncos, Puerto Rico, but she arrived in Orange County in California after her family moved. Here, the Martinez family became part of a Latino agricultural worker community.

Martinez married Gonzalo Mendez, a Mexican immigrant, in 1935, and they managed a farm in Westminster, California.

Mendez’s three children were not allowed to enroll at a local public school because of their skin color in 1944, and the couple decided they would fight this decision.

Gonzalo Mendez and four other parents sued the Westminster school district and other districts to end the segregation of Hispanic students with the Mendez v. Westminster case.

Felicitas Mendez also organized committees to gain support for the case and she managed her farm and earned money to pay costs associated with the lawsuit.

The Federal district court concluded that the school districts were in violation of Mexican-American citizens’ right to equal protection and ruled in favor of the Mendez family and the other parents. This decision paved the way for a law that required all California public schools to integrate that same year as well as the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Mendez’s daughter Sylvia was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 for her and her parents’ role in the Westminster v. Mendez case.

In the Google Doodle, Felicitas Mendez is smiling as she looks at a group of children from different cultural backgrounds walking towards the entrance of a school.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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